Friday, March 6, 2009

Redefining "Down Time" - Part I

As I write this, I am sitting in an airport, waiting for my flight out of Dallas to go see friends in Colorado. Yes, I am without the kids. And yes, I am doing an internal happy dance right now. I'm so excited to see my friends my and am anticipating a fabulous few days.

However, the part of the trip that I was to talk about now is NOW…waiting in the airport. This is actually the leg of the vacation that I was anticipating the most: the time, by myself, in the airport and on the plane.

In the four hours since I kissed my gorgeous kids and husband goodbye, I have come up with concepts for 47 blog entries, planned my entire summer, and finished “The Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell – the incredible book that’s been sitting by my bedside table for months.

And I’m only halfway to Colorado.

Why has this time that so many other people dread become such a goldmine of productivity and creativity for me? Because I knew it would be, and I was prepared for it.

The realization came in my mid-20’s that I was at my creative best when I was stuck somewhere I didn’t really want to be, by myself, for a relatively long period of time. Boring and unnecessary lectures, doctor’s waiting rooms, airport terminals.

With a single thought, I erased a huge chunk of my life that I had previously defined as “down time” and replaced it with hyper-productivity.

So, now that I’m in the airport typing away, I have to ask myself, “Why can’t I get this much done in the hours after the kids are in bed?” I’ve decided the answer has to do with control. Right now, I am not completely in control of my situation or surroundings, so I have to turn off that part of my brain. As it turns out, that part of my brain, the part that scans every inch of my “domain” at home in order to mentally print off my exhaustive “to do” list…that part hinders my creativity.

But the airport, and the doctor’s office, and the lecture hall are not my domain. And I don’t find them particularly interesting, so they don’t distract.

The key to making sure these moments happen is to be prepared to recognize and utilize them. Had I not had a pad and pen, this time would have been wasted. Had I purchased the indulgent vampire novel I was eying in the airport bookstore, this moment never would have happened. Ditto for the Texan microbrew that was calling my name at the bar.

Take a moment for yourself and find the “down time” in your life that could be reworked and rethought. It could be totally different from mine. Then prepare for it. Get excited about it.

Tomorrow, I will write about the other forms of down time in my life that empower me to other kinds of productivity, besides creative thinking.

And by the way, I wrote this entire post during the walk between Gate A11 and C31, sitting down to write between thoughts, all the while surrounded by people who look bored out of their minds.



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