With the year drawing to a close and a new year about to begin, it is often a time of reflection. Of course, 2020 was a year like no other as we experienced a pandemic and our daily lives were much changed. We all got through the year the best that we could. Routines changed. Some activities received more attention and others less.
If you were to draw a pie chart of how you typically spend your time each day, what would it look like?
I worked on a fourteen-hour day over seven days. The biggest chunk of time is the brown section – quality time spent with my partner (MOH). As I retired from my day job to spend more time with my husband who is twelve years older than me, this is good. Writing novels, marketing my work, and reading are also well represented. My passion is creative writing and so investing time in writing and reading is important to me. However, this honest estimate of how I spend my time does raise some concerns for me. If I had carried out a similar exercise before the pandemic it would have looked very different. There would have been a sizeable chunk of time spent with my father who has Alzheimer’s disease and lives in a nearby care home. Sadly, I am now only permitted to visit him for twenty minutes a week. I have committed myself to write and publish my books this year, but I wonder at what expense of other activities. I value my friends and yet I spend very little time with them. This is partly due to the need for social isolation, but living by the sea there is no reason why I could not have made time to take walks with friends.
Then, there is that other chunk of time mysteriously labelled ‘other leisure’. The time lost in browsing social media or watching TV. I have a cupboard full of crafting projects awaiting my attention but have neglected all interests except for writing.
Cooking is food preparation and baking but also includes housework. I am fortunate that my husband does most of the housework as he was the main homemaker for many years whilst I went out to work.
If you are honest about how you divide your time, does it match your priorities? Are you investing enough time in the things that are important to you? What is missing? Do you need to make any adjustments?
The importance of having varied interests
It is important to have several interests and activities in your life and not to invest all of your time and energy in just one or two. It is that adage Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. This happens too often with people who have no interests outside of work. Retirement comes along and they are bereft. There is nothing else in their life to take its place. Waiting until retirement to develop an interest or hobby is leaving it too late.
Try drawing a grid of nine squares – three across and three down. Write in each square an activity that is important to you – work might be one of those squares. What will you write in the other eight? If any one of these activities is no longer available to you for whatever reason, you have others that can take its place. All too often we rely on one interest to meet all of our needs. When we can no longer engage with this activity because our life circumstances have changed then the loss is great. If we develop several interests, we safeguard against this, and we expand our opportunities and potential for personal growth.
For many years I was completely focused on my career. I commuted into London and worked long days. I loved my work and believed that I didn’t have any time for hobbies or outside interests. I was working as a management consultant and had been very successful, and then came the inevitable famine. My work dried up. I drove myself crazy chasing potential contracts. Fortunately, I had put enough money aside to provide for my family during such a time. When you work for yourself you expect feast or famine. It should have been an opportunity for me to rest and enjoy some well-earned leisure time, but I didn’t have any interests and had not made any effort to become part of my community. Those months of having no work were the best thing that could have happened to me. Once I had relaxed into accepting that work would pick up in its own time, I started to develop interests. I took up oil painting, bell-ringing – which didn’t last but I made some good friends, and I joined a local women’s group. It was also around this time that I enrolled in a creative writing class. I discovered that there was more to life than work and that it was important to make room for friends and other interests.
Apart from the need to lead a balanced life, hobbies enrich our lives:
- They stop us from working too hard
- Help to ease us into retirement
- Bring us into contact with other people, creating new friendships
- Enable us to relax by losing ourselves in an absorbing activity
- Make us a more interesting person
- Learn new transferable skills
- Can bring in additional income
- Discover skills we didn’t know that we had.
I rediscovered the pleasure of creative writing, when I joined that class, twenty years ago. Now, I am a full-time author. In addition to writing, I enjoy craftwork. I plan to make a framed miniature, complete a decorative doll I started last year, and knit up some wool I bought into felted bags in the coming weeks. I won’t achieve all of these but I will make more time in my life for varied activities.
And I will definitely find more time to see my friends, within the parameters allowed by social distancing requirements. It has been an unusual year and I long for the days when I can go to exhibitions, visit galleries, travel, and spend time with my family again. In the meantime, I have plenty to keep me occupied and content.
Are there activities that you are going to make more time for in the new year?