I spent the majority of my most recent Saturday curled up on my couch with an old friend, talking for hours over cups of ginger tea and take-out from one of my new favorite spots. It wasn’t planned, exactly – we had loosely agreed to get together over the weekend, but time and activity were left to chance. As it happens, gloomy overcast skies and a shared desire to… well, not go anywhere, meant that a seemingly unexciting afternoon in my apartment was exactly what we both wanted to do with our Saturdays.
As we caught up, she shared that she often felt a pressure to have things to “do”—to have plans to share when coworkers asked on Friday afternoons about the upcoming weekend. When she didn’t have a roster of exciting activities, she felt it sounded somehow… lame. But the reality was that a lack of plans was often what she was most excited about – the possibility of doing everything, or nothing. As she spoke, I connected with the feelings she described. I too had felt the constant pressure to be doing, to always have somewhere to be and plans to keep, despite the fact that the constant doing was causing me insane amounts of stress and was preventing me from doing the spur-of-the-moment things I loved.
So why don’t we allow ourselves more unstructured time? Maybe we’re worried about fitting it all in, worried that if we don’t schedule something three weeks out that it won’t happen, or worried that we won’t have a good enough answer to the question, “So what did you do this weekend?” come Monday morning. But by overscheduling and cutting out unstructured time, we’re doing ourselves a disservice and limiting our possibilities.
One aspect of minimalism that I’ve been trying to work on is simplifying my social schedule, to reduce stress and open myself up to spontaneous possibilities. Rather than cram things into my calendar (and ask friends what they’re doing three Mondays in advance), I’ve just left things up to chance.
It’s true: some things do end up falling by the wayside, particularly the casual “we should catch up!”s with random acquaintances. But on the whole, I’ve found that leaving my calendar open has allowed me to use my days more thoughtfully and productively. What do I feel like doing today? What needs to get done? Who haven’t I seen in a while?
Somehow, it works. I still see everyone I want to see, and am able to get everything done that I need to. While I make occasional plans, I try to resist getting locked into anything as much as possible – letting my day decide for me. And as a result, I feel happier, more relaxed, and more free to use my time as I need and want to.
If you get the chance this week, try leaving a weeknight or a weekend day open – just to see what happens. You might like what you find.
Photo via Trotter Magazine