In years of writing about time management, I’ve realized that different people have different levels of tolerance for activity. Mine is probably on the high side. That’s a fortunate thing with four children. If it stressed me out to have swim practice and a flag football game on the same day we would have an issue.
I am also naturally a planner. I like knowing fun stuff is coming up. I can anticipate the fun stuff and stretch the experienced pleasure. I know not everyone feels the same way about plans. Some people feel they are constricting, but I also know that many fun things in life do require planning, and failing to plan means time will be spent mindlessly. In our connected world, that tends to mean time will be spent scrolling around online. Such time is effortlessly fun, but it’s also completely forgettable. It disappears as if it never existed.
Which is why I cringed when I saw a recent post on Instagram: “I don’t understand people who plan things for the weekend. We just did things all week. What’s next, more things?”
Yes, indeed, more things. More wonderful things. More things that make us feel like we’re living life, rather than spending all potential leisure time watching TV or, well, scrolling around on Instagram.
This past weekend was full of things. I planned to get up by sunrise on Saturday and go for a long run. I did, and was rewarded with perfect fall running weather, and a sense of accomplishment by the time we did the morning sports run (one kid to swim practice, another to flag football practice and a game). A key point here: early morning was probably the only time that run would have happened that day, and planning meant it did, rather than my telling myself a story that I have no time to exercise.
Then — again as planned — we went to Dorney Park (my husband had an office event there). I had never been before and while it was a bit chillier than expected (how did it manage to be 10 degrees colder in Allentown than in my part of PA an hour away?) there were rides for all the kids. And an animatronic giant. And funnel cake!
We came home, the sitter came, and my husband and I got cleaned up to go to a party for parents of students at our youngest kid’s preschool. We’ve been sending kids to that preschool for eight years now (minus a one-year gap) so we know a lot of the parents. It was fun to dress up, and chat with old friends, and make new ones while drinking wine outside on a crisp fall night. Investing in relationships is a great use of time. It’s also a use of time that tends to require planning. Someone had to plan a party. Sitters don’t just magically show up.
Sunday morning, my husband took the three oldest kids to a swim meet. He had to plan ahead to get them entered, but the kids were very proud of themselves (my 11-year-old beat his best time by several seconds).
I took the 3-year-old to church, where I practiced with the choir and sang for the service. Choir takes a commitment — more things, as the Instagram post might note — but I believe I have a richer life singing difficult and beautiful music than I would have spending an equivalent quantity of time looking at photos of other people’s concerts. We sang the operatic anthem In the Year King Uzziah Died, which might have been a bit much for some members of the congregation (I heard someone afterwards noting that it was “long”) but I rather enjoyed it. And the more user-friendly soprano descant for Amazing Grace.
We all met up at home afterwards. Then my 8-year-old and I celebrated his last day as an 8-year-old by getting into our rain gear and driving down to Lincoln Financial Field. Yep, even more things: seats for the Eagles game with a great view, given to my little guy as a birthday present because he wanted that experience. We had such a good time despite the rain and my son — who usually acts like I’m giving him cooties when I try to kiss him good night — wanted me to hold his hand as we walked to and from the car.
Yes, even though I did things all week, I’m happy my life still has space for that. Did it take energy to do things all weekend? Sure, but energy, unlike time, is renewable. I find that I draw energy from meaningful things. Consequently, I did not hit Monday exhausted. I felt like my weekend was good. Full, not crazy. We capped it with a short calendar meeting to discuss upcoming weekends. We have tickets to several fall events that I’m already looking forward to. More things! I wouldn’t want it any other way.
20 thoughts on “Full is not crazy”
Love this perspective!
@Jo – thank you!
I have been inspired by your writing and especially your weekend planning to be more intentional this fall. My default is to stay home (with a book). Instead this weekend on Friday night I went to dinner and a movie with a friend. Saturday I had time for a leisurely call with my mom and then took my girls to Oktoberfest. We then chilled at home that night. Sunday we spent the afternoon at our local children’s museum. It was a fun weekend (although as always there were moments) and I’m working on calibrating the right amount of activity for us. Your comment on timeblocking (I think on Best of Both Worlds) has made this feel manageable to me. I feel like one afternoon activity is doable and still leaves time for the life maintenance stuff (and for me to chill with a book). This was the first weekend I successfully planned. And I’m excited to do it again for next weekend (spoiler: we’re going to the zoo). Thanks for the inspiration.
@Alissa – sounds like a great weekend! I do think the time blocking mindset is helpful – for little kids thinking a morning activity, afternoon down time, then a post-nap activity generally works. Older kids could have different time blocks.
I like a good book too, though there tends to be some time at night for that. (And during afternoon downtime, or kid lessons/sports). Up until recently it was logistically difficult to be home with a book unless the kids were otherwise occupied. Things seemed to devolve rapidly to throwing blocks and biting and other such things that would interrupt the reading.
The right balance of Things is good!
@Connie – definitely. And one can probably tolerate more Good Things in a given unit of time than Not-So-Fun Things. A weekend of stuff I didn’t want to do would not be rejuvenating.
I think this is definitely a personal preference thing. Your weekend sounds crazy busy and awful to me, but I am an extreme introvert and need some alone time on the weekend. If I don’t get 2 hours or so on the weekend, I will be drained before Monday and generally grumpy. I wish I could say it’s about perspective, but I genuinely think it’s the way I’m built.
My husband is an extreme introvert too, and he would be miserable with this much scheduled. However, his default is not “spending all potential leisure time watching TV or, well, scrolling around on Instagram.” He’s happiest when we BBQ great food and have an impromptu bonfire, play catch with the kids and their neighborhood friends, go to a nearby park, play board games and other “unplanned” activities. Oh, and the lawn – he loves the meditative activity of mowing the lawn (or snowblowing!) and will gladly help out the older neighbors.
That said, I’m happier with a fuller schedule and new experiences, so I plan more outings for me with friends or one or both of the kids. We have learned to strike a balance between our personal preferences; as you say, “different people have different levels of tolerance for activity.”
@Marci – that’s good that you plan outings for you and friends or the kids. That way you still get to do them! The issues more arise when one party’s desire to stay home winds up holding everyone else there, whether they want to be or not.
@Jennifer – in a house of 6 people, even getting 2 hours of alone time requires logistical planning. My runs tend to serve this function well for me. It’s mostly alone time, and then I come back ready to deal with other people.
How do you handle when your spouse is not interested in the same level of weekend activity that you are? I generally prefer a more full schedule. My husband needs more downtime on the weekends. And we have 4 kids (11, 8, 5, 2.5). In the past this has worked well for us. I would plan an afternoon activity with our older children and he would stay home with the kid(s) who napped. Now our youngest is almost 3 and his naps are getting shorter and shorter. I don’t necessarily relish the idea of heading out alone with all 4 kids (although this is getting easier). Plus, leaving the littlest ones home has provided the opportunity to do more big kid activities with the others. As my 11 year old approaches adolescence it is getting harder and harder to satisfy everyone with 1 activity–11 and 3 are pretty different. We already have more than 60 hours of childcare a week, but maybe a sitter one afternoon on the weekends is the answer. Any brilliant thoughts?
@Gillian – no brilliant thoughts. I would think you could actually stick with the schedule and leave the 2.5 year old to have special daddy time in the afternoons while you do stuff with the big kids. It’s not perfect downtime if they’re watching cartoons together but in a 2-parent, 4-kid family, I think you have to negotiate and agree to trade off to get solo downtime on the weekend. So sure, you take all 4 at one point if he then agrees to take all 4 at some other point (which you then use to go out and do stuff with friends, since you like to do more of that).
It is hard to satisfy all four! We do all like swimming at the indoor pool at the YMCA on winter weekends. Some science museums have stuff that 11-year-olds and 3-year-olds like. We did a reasonable number of county fairs this summer because the big kids liked the rides and games and the little kids liked the animals.
Hahaha, I saw that line on Instagram too! And groaned. That line encapsulates my beef with the online minimalism movement. They incant “less stuff, more experiences” but then in — what, branding gone wild? — start eschewing experiences too. What are you folks doing all weekend, staring at your blank white wall?
Yes, individual tolerance levels for activity may vary, but with the minimalism crowd it feels like there’s a competitive race for emptiness. And that’s kinda, well, boring.
I love this comment! ” A competitive race for emptiness” Ha!
Not quite so full is not crazy either. I appreciate Laura’s work, but every time I read one of the posts, especially posts on weekend downtime (a misnomer in Laura’s case if there ever was one), I break out in hives, so I try to stay away from the blog. The thing is, I did read this post, and there is a righteousness undercurrent running through it (and many similar ones), which I found jarring (“Of course you have to plan everything, and if you don’t, things won’t happen”), so here I am, breaking my rule of no commenting.
First, most people don’t rely on outside help so much that booking them or not would make or break an engagement. I have never in my life hired a babysitter in order to go to a party. Most people don’t make enough money for all the outside help. But Laura’s family does, so kudos to them.
Second, I am quite introverted and my hobbies are solitary (writing fiction). But I do enjoy kids’ sports and music and am always the one taking the kids to those events. However, I do greatly prefer if I don’t have to socialize with anyone during these events, or if it’s with people I know very well. I get alone time over the week in my office at work, but if I don’t, like over summer break, I become really unpleasant. As much as I love my kids, extended vacations are torture because I am always on. My husband is *extremely* introverted. He’s much worse than me and really doesn’t tolerate people very well. He absolutely abhors small talk.
We don’t go to many parties (often I will go but he won’t) because parties are overwhelmingly an unpleasant and shallow waste of time for us (yes, just like you say “Such time is effortlessly fun, but it’s also completely forgettable. It disappears as if it never existed” — I say that for a vast majority of IRL social interactions, including parties). I think extroverted people just reject this notion that time IRL with people is not inherently magical and meaningful to everyone. Parties suck; mingling with people sucks. I can do it as well as anyone when I need to (e.g., at work) but it’s not my idea of fun to spend free time on the small-talk inanity. Many experiences (amusement parks, stadiums, etc.) also suck because of crowds. I hate crowds. I even go shopping at the most unusual time in order to avoid crowds and to avoid extremely chatty salespeople.
Time on the computer isn’t always mindless. I have no Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat , only my blog and literary Twitter. Some of my most meaningful personal connections are with the people whom I found online, and these connections arose from common interests and hobbies, rather than from physical proximity.
Extroverts, by all means continue to extrovert and more power to you, but please leave us introverts alone. We really wish you would.
@xykademiqz – thanks for the comment, it’s always fascinating to hear how other people approach time, and I know you think about it a lot. Curiously enough, I always rate as an introvert on the personality quizzes. From my understanding, introverts don’t mind interacting with people we know well, and that’s who I spent most of the weekend with: family, my husband’s close colleagues, other parents we’ve known for 8 years at the preschool, my fellow choir members that I sing with every week. There was also not-talking-to-anyone time both days: running long on Saturday; a lot of time in the car to/from the Eagles game on Sunday (my son had his decompression time playing his Nintendo Switch once it looked like we’d be in traffic for a while). And both nights reading in bed for a bit.
I too am highly introverted and find Laura’s weekends really scary. They are way too full for me. However, although I avoid parties like the plague, I still end up going to lots of lunches, teas and dinners with close friends. Make one or two close friends at primary school, high school, university, the first job, the second, the third job, and they all add up. At one time in my life, I would say yes to every invitation to meet up and end up with crazy, full weekends. How I apply Laura’s advice to planning the weekends is to ensure that I plan for restorative activities and alone time, so that I don’t feel totally drained by all my weekend activities on Monday.
I also think it’s not about introvert/extrovert ‘divide’. My husband and I are by no means extroverts–and our preferred occupations are fairly solitary (reading, writing, swimming, coding) but we tend to have pretty ‘busy’ weekends. The last one featured early morning yoga class (me), taking older child to music lessons, attending the children’s drama performance, after that taking a bunch of children (ours and friends’) for a post-theatre icecreams, then friends’ visit to eat dinner and play board games in our home; the next day taking children to swimming lessons, coming back by 10 to attend a family birthday brunch (husband’s grandmother), then coming back home to change and go to a good friends’ son’s birthday. Not every weekend is like that, but it is by no means unusual.
I think, rather than introversion/extroversion, it is 1) about planning and sense of control 2) need to have a diverse span of activities. A bit like Laura, I *hate* to wake up on Saturday morning without having a reasonably clear plan what I’m going to do the next day. And while it can mean not leaving the house for two days (e.g. it can be ‘playing board games with children’, ‘gardening on Sunday morning’), a ‘diverse span’ usually does include some outings. It can rarely include much uninterrupted writing and reading time, as my children are still relatively young and are best not left unsupervised for longer stretches of time!
I typically want at least one day a week where we have nothing planned in the morning, which tends to default to Sunday in our case. I just hate rushing everyone out the door and like a leisurely morning sipping coffee in pajamas occasionally. But, after hearing Laura’s suggestion to plan your weekends and thinking it over a bit, we’ve started planning the weekends a bit more to make sure we fit in the fun stuff. This past weekend, we went to an Oktoberfest at a local brewery on Saturday afternoon and did a hike on Sunday morning. Although I wouldn’t necessarily have planned these things before, I was glad that we did them. I definitely think there’s a personal preference here and you have to find the balance that’s restorative but still rewarding for you and your family. I think it can also depend on your kids. One of my kids is kind of intense, so she needs more downtime. It’s all about figuring out what works for your family, and I appreciate Laura’s perspective because it’s usually very different from my instinctive preferences!