If you’re dreaming of more free time, be careful what you wish for!

My husband took our son to visit his family in Europe at the end of last month for 9 days. I knew I would miss them, but I was also very excited about the prospect of so much free time. I calculated that without the need to make dinner and put my son to bed, and the entire weekend free, I would have an additional 40 hours to do whatever I wanted. 40 hours! That’s like an entire regular working week. In a normal week I have between 10 and 15 hours available to write/podcast so having 3x that much meant I could do 3x the things, right?

I made a giant list of all the things to do for my writing and the podcast, as well as a list of things to do around our new house. I wrote down the expected amount of time they would take me, and it seemed like everything would fit into these magical 40 extra hours.

So what actually ended up getting done? Not nearly as much as I expected…

I was able to paint my son’s room, which was the one big house thing I had on my list (8 hours). My colleague came over to help/teach me to fix a few niggling things around the house (3 hours). I went through a few of the boxes of papers that we’ve had for three different moves now (2 hours). I put together some furniture (2 hours). So house-wise, I felt pretty good.

I didn’t, however, do even a quarter of what I wanted to in terms of writing/podcasting. I ended up staying later at work most days, since I didn’t have the daycare pickup to worry about. And normally my husband makes dinner, so I had to do that, too, before sitting down at my laptop. I didn’t actually have an extra 2 hours in the evenings like I thought I would. I went to see friends one night as well, so my magical 40 hours dropped to under 30 pretty quickly.

Then, I spent an entire weekend day, from 7:45am to 8:45pm, at a volunteer event in the western part of the state. I don’t regret this at all, since it isn’t something I would have been able to do with my husband and son at home, but it was definitely not my regular weekend schedule!

I also slept a lot less than usual, due to the heat and just getting used to the sounds of a new house. A horrible thunderstorm Sunday night meant I started the week even more exhausted than I usually am, and the painting took a lot more out of me than I expected. Not really a mental state that lends itself to bursts of creativity.

I’ve adapted my writing/podcasting around our regular routine, and having it yanked away was more unsettling than I expected. I honestly think I’ve gotten more done in the week they’ve been back than in the 9 days they were gone!

While I’m a little annoyed with myself for “wasting” what could have been a really productive week, I am trying to focus on the positive:

The volunteering was really great.

I got to see friends I hadn’t seen in awhile and feel like a single gal out on the town.

I was able to eat whatever I wanted without worrying if the boys would like it.

I went to an afternoon movie without feeling guilty for leaving a cranky toddler with my husband.

And I did manage to write and podcast a little. Less than I’d hoped, but I still did work on my business every day, even if some days it was just watching videos for a course I bought.

As enticing as more free time may sound, it needs to be a regular thing for it to be really useful. An unexpected free hour you weren’t expecting passes much quicker than the hour you have been looking forward to all day.

When I know I have only 10 hours, I pick the most important things and focus on them. With 40 potential hours, I did all the “this is fun” stuff that I never get to do and then when things changed and I had less time, it meant to catch up with the “must do” things, while also being totally exhausted. Not exactly the relaxing week I’d pictured.

Have you ever had a long stretch of free time? Did you manage to do all you had planned, or did you start to fill it with fun stuff instead?

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