Since arriving in Amsterdam, I’ve had more free time than I’ve ever had: I’m only working 20 hours per week, with the afternoons and weekends largely free, and I don’t yet have friends here to share my time with. I have so much time that I’m not quite sure what to do with myself. The set-up of this next year, with all of its built-in free time, seems like a gift I need to take advantage of by doing something productive and creative, like writing the next great American novel. But what have I mostly been occupying my time with so far? Facebook, and endless episodes of 30 Rock and Modern Family. And this video series.
I’ve written about this before, but I find that I continue to struggle with finding a balance between productivity and occasional laziness. I believe that taking a night every once in a while to vegetate and do something mindless is necessary to punctuate periods of productivity, but when it becomes a regular occurrence as it has been for me lately, that’s when you’re entering dangerous territory. I always start the day with great intentions of accomplishing something creative, but it very quickly descends into me succumbing to mindless distractions on my computer for hours until I realize that my free time is up, and then getting discouraged that I haven’t done anything worthwhile with my time. It’s terrible!
But in pondering the situation, I’ve come to the conclusion that this is probably a temporary laziness. Being in a new unfamiliar place where the language I hear all the time is not my native tongue, it’s kind of nice to hear people speak English on the shows I watch and find comfort in the familiar depictions of American life. That may sound like a cop-out or an excuse, but I’m giving myself permission to cut myself a little slack in this area. At a certain point, I’ll feel at ease in my surroundings and then maybe being productive will not seem such a daunting task; but those things take time, and it’s all a matter of adjusting to the new. It’s not a race to reach maximum productivity: I have a whole year to figure it out and work out the kinks. Until that happens, I’m starting to outline and implement a schedule for how to best use my free time during the weekdays, because it’s amazing how much sticking to a routine can help you accomplish. In my experience, the routine is half the battle.
I love this video by Miranda July, and I think there’s something profound in the idea of trapping the distractions and making a hostage of something you love in order to free yourself to be productive. The only problem is that a lot of the creative things I want to do necessitate the use of my computer, which is also where all of the distractions are housed! It’s a quandry. If anyone has any suggestions for how to use my computer for creative good while avoiding mindless evils on the interwebs, I’d love to hear them!