Living Madly – Getting Time On Your Side
Back in the fall, when I was trying to think of a theme for this column that reflected my own perspectives on life and the world, as well as the culture of the Merrimack Valley, what came to mind time and again was a quote from Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”:
“The only people for me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to love, mad to talk, mad to be saved; the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
If you’ve read “On the Road,” and possibly even if you haven’t, you are most likely familiar with Kerouac’s words. The quote has appeared on everything from T-shirts and mugs to motivational posters and literary websites. Its broad appeal, I think, speaks to the fact that all of us, regardless of age, gender, economic or social class, have at one time or another experienced the type of wanderlust, passion for discovery and urge to break free from the monotony of everyday life that Kerouac, a Lowell native and co-founder of the Beat movement of the 1950s, embodied in his life and work. It’s the stuff that dreams are made of.
Few of us have the luxury, however, of being able to hop into our buddy’s 1949 Hudson Commodore and head for Mexico City on a whim. And that’s what got me thinking: What can we as busy often overworked professionals, parents and caretakers do to better incorporate into our lives Kerouac’s ideals of free thinking, creativity, desire to experience and learn new things, appreciation for the world and people around us, and equally as important, call into question those habits, responsibilities and goals that might not be in our best interest?
I think it’s about time we found out.
Of course, the first barrier for most people, including me, to doing anything new is a lack of free time. So I set out to find ways to get my work done more quickly, and to develop strategies that would help me enjoy more of my free time doing things I actually want to do. The first step was to focus for a few days on what I spend my time doing. The answer wasn’t too inspiring: Large chunks of my days are spent checking and responding to email and/or scrolling through my social media feeds.
It seems innocent at first, that quick click on the Facebook icon, but before I know it, I’ve wasted 45 minutes watching cat videos and slow cooker demos. Forty-five minutes here and there can add up quickly, especially if you’re visiting Facebook or Twitter multiple times a day.
Email isn’t much better. I’ve struggled with feeling compelled to check my email at least a few times an hour for most of my professional life, as well the urge to reply immediately to any new messages I receive. This behavior almost always takes me away from one task or another that needs to be finished, and once I’ve set it aside, it seems to take forever to pick up where I left off.
The thing I dislike most is the feeling of regret once I realize I could have spent my time reading a novel or working on a writing project, hiking or enjoying time with someone I care about, rather than fiddling on Facebook. So, here a few strategies I’ve developed to help deal with the problem:
I set aside time twice a day to check and reply to email. Unless there is an impending emergency, I do my best not to look at it more often. I removed the Facebook app from my phone and computer so I actually have to type the URL into the search bar to get there. I also started logging off after each visit so it takes some effort to log back in.
As a result, I usually think twice before impulsively checking my email or Facebook feed, which usually means I’m able to finish whatever I’m working on more quickly, and am generally spared from wasting my free time oohing and ahhing over photos of baby goats. The result so far has been free time to take walks in the afternoon, cook dinner on weeknights and read my way through the enormous pile of magazines stacked beside my couch. It’s not exactly riding shotgun on Route 66 with the wind blowing through my hair, but it’s a good start.
Contact Emilie at email@example.com