The Importance of Scheduling Unscheduled Time

The two most important blocks of time on my calendar are 6:30-9:30 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

I call these blocks whim time. They represent the time between when I wake up and when it’s time to get ready for my Les Mills class at the YMCA (I take BodyFlow on Saturday and BodyAttack on Sunday*).

They also represent my best time. If you had a chance to read my Lifehacker article about how I schedule my day as a freelancer, you might remember me writing “I solve more problems between 6:30 a.m. and 9 a.m. than I do the entire rest of the day.”

So, during whim time, I can sit comfortably on my sofa with my cup of tea and think about things.

Or put harebrained schemes into action, e.g. “what would happen if I started doing Saturday Open Threads?” (I now prep my Saturday Open Threads on Friday, to keep my Saturday whim time free of obligations like writing blog posts.)

Or read everything the internet has to offer on a particular topic, such as “how to rope drop Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World**.”

Or immerse myself in a book, though I usually end up saving reading for the afternoons because those mornings are just so beautifully wonderful for thinking and digging and journaling and processing and creating.

Anyway, I knew I was going to write about whim time at some point, and then Lifehacker ran an article titled Give Yourself the Gift of Time This Week and I thought yep, I agree with all of this.

To quote Lifehacker’s Alicia Adamczyk:

One of the greatest pleasures of my new-ish morning routine is that I start many of my days by doing nothing. I lay around for a bit, before getting ready and then sitting with a cup of coffee for a few minutes.

My resting cup of coffee never takes me more than 20 minutes to finish—and it’s usually far less than that—and yet when I skip I can feel how much tenser I am, and more prone to stress during my morning commute.

What I’m missing is the benefit of doing nothing, of enjoying a bit of alone time before I venture out into the world and the daily grind begins.

I start all of my weekdays with yoga practice, which is my way of enjoying a bit of alone time before the daily grind begins, but I give my weekends an extra-long chunk of doing nothing time, which is to say time to do whatever I want. To go where the whims take me.

This is where I have to remind new readers that I am single and have no children and have the privilege of a freelance career that fits within a 9-5 schedule. In case you’re wondering how I manage to carve so much time out of my weekends for whim.

On that note: I had an absolutely beautiful whim day last Sunday. No plans (besides BodyAttack, which I wouldn’t miss for the world), no obligations, nothing but whatever I felt like doing, for a full day.

I played the piano and played video games and went for a walk and did some excellent sitting and thinking and did two loads of laundry and watched an entire movie without pausing it except to use the toilet, which is something I rarely have time for on non-whim days. (When I do decide to watch a movie, I tend to break it up into two or three 40-minute chunks because that’s the only way I can fit it into a typical evening.)

If I don’t get a full whim day at least once a month — and it’s nicer to get two — I start to feel cramped and worn out and overwhelmed.

Which means I have to plan for these days in my calendar, just like I plan my whim time on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

And then say no to anything that might conflict with those plans — or if something comes up that I can’t (or don’t want to) say no to, rearrange my schedule to find another whim day.

Because they’re that important.

Is this an introvert thing? I don’t know. It’s something I’ve always sought out, ever since college when I had the ability to start setting my own schedule.

I’m curious if you carve out similar unscheduled chunks of time for yourself, and how you keep those times sacred — and if you don’t, whether you wish you could. ❤️

*I also take BodyPump on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and BodyAttack Express on Wednesday evenings.

**More on this later — but yes, I might be rope-dropping Animal Kingdom soon. (And the other three Walt Disney World parks.)

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