Spend ‘free time’ playing leap frog with a unicorn
Column by Jim Bishop
Every four years, it happens: We get an “extra” day on our calendars.
That’s right. Today, Feb. 29, is Leap Year Day.
I’ve often wondered when those born on Leap Year Day actually celebrate their birthdays. One such local person is Caroline Murch, born Feb. 29, 2004. The daughter of Jennifer and John Murch, she turned 4 yesterday (her first three birthdays were observed on the 28th). Jennifer said they’ve kidded Caroline that she just turned 1 year old.
So, how did you invest this “extra” day given us? Work? Call in sick? Watch daytime television? Clean out the attic or garage (I’ll bet!)? Volunteer for a service project?
Sandiland’s Law, a subsidiary of Murphy’s Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – and Murphy was an optimist), states that “free time that unexpectedly becomes available will be wasted.”
I’ll wager that most of us didn’t avail ourselves of the opportunity handed to us on this shortest month of the year to pursue some earth-shaking activity, to discover a cure for the common cold or even reach out and touch a family member at a distance with a surprise phone call.
I confess to what I contemplated the most: I get paid once a month and had to wait an extra day to receive my paycheck (as grateful as I am to get one).
In general, I too easily get sidetracked on my computer while doing a Google search as part of a valid work project, sit in waiting rooms for appointments that invariably drag on or wind up in the checkout line that always moves slowest.
Although an inveterate goal-oriented list-maker, I find myself gravitating toward the “fun” activities, at work and elsewhere, and postponing those tougher tasks that I know will demand more intestinal fortitude.
This category, I hesitate to admit, may include those activities that simply get postponed week after week – answering e-mail queries that came when I was already too busy and that mean more work for me, visiting a shut-in, updating my funeral plans, treating our chimney and outdoor benches with silicone and relegating amassed photos to the appropriate albums.
These things need to be done, but procrastination trumps good intentions. All I need is a little more time, right?
I recall the last time I suddenly found myself with an entire “free” day. We went to Pennsylvania one weekend, and an event we planned to attend there was suddenly canceled, so returned home Sunday evening. I’d asked off for Monday, so here we were unexpectedly back in the ‘Burg with some time on my hands.
So what did I do? Like the dummy I am, I showed up for work Monday. The nice part was being able to take things at a somewhat relaxed pace and complete several projects ahead of schedule. But later I wished I’d stuck with the original game plan and just mellowed out at my favorite locale, home, sweet home.
I’ve heard it suggested many times that each of us, on occasion, should keep a personal log for a week or so, recording our activities hour by hour and then reviewing the listings. For the most part, we’d end up surprised, even shocked, by what actually was accomplished and how much time was devoted to “getting ready” to do certain tasks.
Might part of the problem be that we get frustrated by the many demands and contingencies that invade our space and keep us from the kind of activities that help lubricate our gears and help our lives run more smoothly?
I plan to take a “personal day” this coming week to grease the Great Mandela – go out for a relaxing meal, sort through accumulated “stuff” and either pitch materials or file them appropriately, take our pampered feline Avery to an overdue visit to the veterinarian, send e-mail updates to persons I’ve been out of touch with and clean out my computer files.
Some people maintain that they never have time to do what I just described above. I question that. Unexpected demands and emergencies aside, for the most part, the unstated and stated choices we make ultimately determine whether we maximize or mostly squander our waking hours each day.
I needn’t wait for the next Leap Year – 2012 – to jump to that conclusion.
Jim Bishop is the public-information officer at Eastern Mennonite University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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