|Koh Samui November 2014 // Personal picture|
As I promised on the Shopping Fast Month 5 recap, here are some more in-depth thoughts about free time or spare time, what we do with our time, and what the shopping fast, and my trip to Thailand, taught me about how I spend my time...
This all started when I realized, in October, that the shopping fast was making me spend a lot of time on material objects, paradoxally. Between the time spent editing and organizing my current possessions, researching and testing around my consumer behaviour, a lot of browsing online sites and inspirational pictures (a bit like smelling cakes when you are on a diet), this made me realize just how time consuming material objects can be in our daily lives, even when we don't buy any.
So I have spent the month of November pondering these thoughts about time, as I forced myself to stop spending all that time on my material items, inspirations and other wishlists. Here are a few budding thoughts I'd like to share with you.
Saving Time. But for What?As I already mentioned, I'm currently reading a book called Faster, by James Gleick. One of the interesting points he makes is: we live in a society where the important isn't spending time, but saving it. Convenience food to save time over cooking, technology to save time over washing laundry, writing and sending "snail mail", getting the news quicker. Saving time on commute, saving time on meals, saving time on shopping with online sites and express deliveries, saving time on bedtime stories (did you know the "one minute bedtime stories" book existed? It does.)
I get it, I also want to save time on daily chores and other life annoyances. But decades after introducing washing machines and other modern time saving technologies, where are we with that? What are we saving our time for? When we are reduced to saving time on the bedtime stories we read to our children, what can we possibly be doing with all that time we are saving?
As James Gleick points out (or pointed out in 1998, as a matter of fact), despite living in a modern society which facilities and technology allows us to save a lot of time on daily chores, we are busier than mankind has ever been. We are working longer hours than our parents did when they were our age. Our schedules are packed to the brim, where did that saved time go?
Laptop: The Time Sinking HoleI didn't conduct any worldwide research on how people spend their time, but I've wondered about mine. And that's a tad scary, really. What do I want to save time for? Writing (which I do for the blog, but I haven't touched my crime novel in weeks), sports (which I barely fit once a week now), playing the violin (which I do what, 15 minutes a day), playing video games (I have barely touched my console last month), calling friends and family (which I always forget, on Sunday at 11PM I'm like "crap...")
So, in the end, what do I do with that saved time? A LOT of computer and TV series watching. But mainly, a LOT of computer. You know, this becoming that, and I've watched Youtube videos for two hours. Opening the laptop to write, and two hours later I'm still reading and commenting on blogs. Looking for the address of a concert space, and two hours later I'm browsing the latest arrivals on American Vintage.
In Thailand, I didn't bring my laptop at all. And restricted my internet time to 15 minutes a day, to post an Instagram pic and update my friends about the trip on Facebook. And that's it. Well, guess what? Days were so long! When compared to week-end days at home, we got up early, did a lot of visits, by 3PM we were back at the hotel room and relaxed around a book and coconut. I had time to discover my surroundings, time to read books, time to talk with le fiancé, time to sleep, time to reflect about things, time to visit, time to buy souvenirs, time to bathe in the sea... Banning the computer and Internet saved me hours every day.
In comparison, take today, Sunday, as I write and plan this post. I've been writing for my blog for an hour, which was the objective of turning my laptop on, but before that, I had spent over two hours watching Youtube videos, reading and commenting blog posts, and brushing around the daily news. Before I even showered and dressed, it is already 2PM on my Sunday. A whole morning eaten by my laptop.
So... What Else?In November, I have actively decided to stop myself from browsing online shops, refining my wishlists, investigating brands, and even to go into shops "just to browse". Either I go in with a list and make a 30 mn in-and-out, or I don't go. This was a first step, as I was still spending a long time on the Internet or watching TV series after dinner.
First, I noticed I had extra free time on my hands during week-ends. I ended up calling more friends, going out more, playing more violin and reading books at a decent pace again. I also realized I finally saw time pass during week-ends. You know, that moment when you realize it's Sunday, 8PM, and you haven't read that book around a tea as you meant to, didn't visit any exhibits as you planned to, nor did that run you planned?
Well, this has become more rare in November. Because I didn't spend half my days organizing my closet or going to town and browsing shops for hours (even though I didn't buy anything), as I used to the months before. Old habits die hard, it seems.
With this extra free time on my hands, I naturally turned to what I missed most: reading, playing video games, and playing music. However, I also noticed that, in the evening, I'm way too tired to do any of these things properly. Getting the "item maintenance" noise out of the way made me realize I'm way more productive at certain moments of the day than others. And I still spent most of my evenings watching TV series or Youtube videos on my laptop.
When I came back from Thailand, I decided to take an extra step on the "spending time" front - I have decided to limit computer time. I'll report back in a month or so on how it changed my time spending (or not), but I have basically introduced rules such as - no computer (or any other screen) after 10PM, getting to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier and enjoy more of these early morning hours during which I'm energized, no computer in the morning etc.
I have also decided to dedicate time to computer, to make sure it stays limited, and that I do what I really want to do while I'm online. For example, 10AM to 2PM on Sunday, for all the important computer stuff of the week. It can be 4 hours of youtube videos, or 4 hours of catching up with the bloggers I like and plan my weekly blog posts. In any case, this is a way to feel less like time has "disappeared" while I was mindlessly browsing the web.
Maybe that new resolution explains why I post a bit less often on the blog these days and publish my comments days after the blogger's publication. But I'm okay with that trade-off so far.
Of course, these are only early thoughts as I'm trying to reorganize my schedule. I hope to have more concrete things to share with you in the coming weeks as these new habits manage (or not) to take root. What about you? What do you do with all that time you "save"? How do you wish to spend your time, and is it in line with how you actually spend it?