Why We Need Unscheduled Time

When does our openness translate to opportunity and when does it simply becoming overwhelming?

The usual question: “So, when can we get together and catch up?” My typical answer: “Good question. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” Unable to commit at a moment’s notice, I mentally shuffle through dates and times, appointments, lunches, and meetings in my head, attempting to rule out any conflicts and finally give up until I can cross check with my iPhone calendar and my dry erase board that hangs above my desk. (Yes, I still use a calendar that I can write on and look up at every month even though I have the digital ability to view it all in the palm of my hand. I like using the different colored markers and magnets. So there.)

Finally able to sort through the chaos and commit to a time, I shoot a quick text to my friend letting her know that I can squeeze in lunch two weeks from now for about an hour and fifteen minutes if we eat somewhere close to my office that day. And then, inevitably, that time is not convenient for her. After a bit more shuffling around, I find a way to squeeze it in. I can run to the bank on Saturday and pick up a birthday card for my mom if I get up 20 minutes earlier. I can make it all happen. It’s just scheduling and making a plan. And I just keep going.

And then I come across this article: 19 Words That Will Make People Like You More. And since I’m open to improving my character and particularly interested in influential rhetorical habits, I tell myself I’ve got the two minutes to skim through it. I breeze past one and two because I was brought up in the South and have called people “ma’am” and “sir” all my life without thinking twice. I even use it at the CrossFit box when I’m coaching because a resounding “Yes ma’am!” from me to one of our new members who just set a new personal best pretty much signifies “Hell yeah!” It’s an easy way to show respect and pride in other people’s efforts.

I think I’m going to keep coasting through the article but I hit number three and four and get stuck. The words “You’re welcome” have not been a part of my vocabulary for quite some time. I’m definitely guilty of using “No problem,” “Sure thing,” or “Of course” as responses for when I’m thanked for doing something. After becoming cognizant of it in the office, I start to realize that I do it outside of work, too. What are my time and efforts really worth? And when did I become so quick to give them away without acknowledgement? Maybe I just don’t have enough time to reflect on it all. I have things to do, places to go, and people to see.

I’m a sponge wanting to soak it all in and I am open because openness brings opportunity.

My best friend would like to take a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I have never been and I want to experience that. I’ll find a place in my schedule and secure the funds to make it happen. A prospective client wants to integrate a new marketing plan using media in a way they’ve never done before. This sounds interesting and I want to take in all the analytics, statistics, and attend the creative meetings to see if we can make this happen. We’re starting a new class at the gym. Great! I would love to coach that.  Before I know it, my calendar is full without a moment to spare and I find myself disappointed that I don’t have time to try a new restaurant or schedule another trip, and frustrated that a business meeting can’t be booked until next month. There just isn’t enough time.

Somehow, all of my openness has become overwhelming.

In my efforts to constantly be absorbing, I’ve forgotten that sometimes I need to allow for a small amount of unscheduled, unplanned time that belongs to just me. Time that I refuse to give away without acknowledging its value. That time is essential to ensuring that I can maintain the energy to keep being open to the world around me. The ironic thing about openness is that it requires me to strike a balance between closing myself off occasionally, for my own good, and constantly being on the go. I am happiest when I am busy, but I know how easily stressed I can become when I begin to rush from one moment to the next, never truly taking in all that I intend to absorb because I am overbooked. This completely defeats the purpose and intent behind being open.

So the next time that someone says “thank you” for something I’ve planned, work that I’ve done, or for an event I’ve attended, I will be making it a point to say, “You’re welcome” because I want them to know that I am glad I put in the effort. I have time to do that for them and for myself. And as hard as it might be to close for an hour or two, I think it will be well worth the extra sleep or down time so that I can begin to absorb again.

Photo via iStock

holstee_logo_2Originally posted on Holstee’s Mindful Matter, the best place to read stories and tips on how to live life fully.


Lauren Messer is a renaissance millennial striving to create balance while learning from the moments in her journey. As a producer in media production, she is on the forefront of content-driven visual messaging. She has her Masters of Communications Studies from the University of Alabama, is a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, and ESL tutor in Dallas, Texas.