Unstructured time update, now that I have my own business

I like making lists of things I can do to make the most of chunks of time. Lists make it easier for me to answer the question: “What do I want to do now?” That’s because it’s easier to pick something from a list than to come up with an idea from scratch. I’m still open to spontaneity, but I’m never at a loss for things to do, and I can match my discretionary activities more closely to my preferences and priorities. By starting with a long view and zooming all the way in to things I can do in a few minutes, I can align these snippets of time with my long-term goals.

I posted one such list three years ago, and periodically post updated lists as my circumstances change. Now that I have my own business and I’m focusing on other interests, how would I like to spend my unstructured, discretionary time? What do I care about and want to develop long-term, and how can I translate that into on-the-ground actions?

This list is long, so I’ll keep it out of the excerpt. If you don’t see the list, click on the link to read more.

Building wonderful relationships

My first priority is building wonderful relationships. I tend to be happy by default and I enjoy making opportunities at work, so I can take care of those aspects on my own. On the other hand, relationships can take more work and effort because other people are involved. It makes sense to put the hard stuff first.

I want to have a long and happy marriage, the kind where we enjoy each other’s company even more throughout the years. Our age gap is probably going to create a few challenges, but those shouldn’t be insurmountable. If we build a strong foundation now, we can deal with the tough parts. For various reasons, we would also like to raise children, and we want to be personally involved in helping them learn.

I also want to build wonderful relationships with my parents, my sisters and their families, and my in-laws. This means keeping up to date with frequent Skype chats and social network updates, sharing experiences and thoughts, and occasionally travelling to see them.

If I choose to spend a month or more focusing on building wonderful relationships, what would that look like? I might:

  • Cook a large variety of good recipes
  • Tidy, streamline, and organize the house
  • Plant and tend a productive fruit and vegetable garden
  • Raise kids, possibly with interesting educational experiments: Algorithmic thinking introduced early? Latin? Math and science as fun?
  • Spend the time hanging out in the Philippines or travelling with my family
  • Help work on a collection of family stories and photographs

If I have a week or two to focus on building wonderful relationships, I might:

  • Take a cooking class or learn a few new recipes
  • Tidy and organize the house
  • Plan and plant the garden
  • Take a short vacation with family
  • Take and organize pictures and stories

If I have a day or two, I might:

  • Try a new recipe
  • Cook for a week
  • Plant a few more seeds in the garden

If I have a chunk of time (3-4 hours, which is an afternoon or an evening), I might:

  • Cook a nice meal
  • Water the garden
  • Visit my in-laws
  • Clean the house

If I have an hour, I might:

  • Go for a walk with W-
  • Chat with my parents or sisters over Skype
  • Tidy up
  • Clear my inbox

If I have 5-15 minutes, I might:

  • Give W- a hug or a kiss
  • Quickly check social networks for updates
  • Respond to some mail
  • Tidy a room

Learn and share as much as I can

Learning is tons of fun. I read quickly and I like asking people questions, so I learn a lot from other people’s experiences. I love sharing what I know through blog posts, drawings, and presentations. I care about making it easier for other people to learn something. If I can accelerate learning, then people who follow afterwards can learn even more, and they can share that with me!

This is where my interests in writing and drawing fit in. I want to write really well and draw really well so that I can share what I’m learning about life.

If I have a month or more to focus on learning and sharing, I might:

  • Write and illustrate books, blog posts, presentations, etc.
  • Learn or practise a language (on my list: Latin, Cantonese, Japanese)
  • Learn or develop a skill (drawing, writing, photography, woodworking, …)
  • Pick a subject, learn it, and share it
  • Build a visual library of summaries and sketches so that I can easily remember and share ideas, books, presentations, and more

If I have a week or more, I might:

  • Draw lots of summaries
  • Do a deep dive into research on a topic

If I have a day or two, I might:

  • Map what I’m learning
  • Practise drawing
  • Braindump lots of thoughts
  • Explore life by learning and writing about it

If I have 3-4 hours, I might:

  • Read and take notes on a book, then summarize it visually
  • Organize my notes
  • Prepare a presentation
  • Draw something detailed

If I have an hour, I might:

  • Read and take notes on a book
  • Practise drawing
  • Write about what I’m learning

If I have 5-15 minutes, I might:

  • Read a few blog posts
  • Take quick notes on what I’m learning
  • Reuse something I’ve already written by publishing it on my blog
  • Review my notes

Cultivate friends whom I like spending time with

I like bringing friends together. I learn a lot from their conversations, and I love how people help each other out. I’m tickled pink that I now have old friends in Canada, people who’ve seen me change over time and whom I’ve also seen grow. I want to get even better at spending time with friends and learning more about their lives.

This can be a challenge for me because I’m both introverted and shy. I don’t like going to crowded, noisy places, which I find tiring and overstimulating. I feel awkward calling people up and asking them how they’ve been, or setting up lunch or coffee so that we can chat. I prefer small-group interacts – they not only let me see more aspects of my friends than I can bring out myself, they also relieve the pressure to carry the conversation. So I organize tea parties and other get-togethers, and it would be great to either make a regular habit of doing so or nudge friends into holding them too.

If I have a month or more to focus on cultivating friends, I might:

  • Set up lunch or coffee with different people every day, and get over that hump of talking to people one-on-one
  • Build my database of people’s interests and stories by looking at Facebook updates or taking notes (this will probably make it easier for me to think up appropriate gifts)

If I have a week or two, I might:

  • Take an intensive class with a friend
  • Write lots of e-mail or paper letters

If I have a day or two, I might:

  • Host or organize a more complex get-together (new recipes? more food?)
  • Prepare lots of jams, jellies, or other kitchen gifts

If I have 3-4 hours or so, I might:

  • Host, organize, or attend a get-together
  • Take a class with a friend

If I have an hour or so, I might:

  • Clear my inbox
  • Respond to social network updates
  • Pick someone’s brain about how friendship works for other people
  • Write about what’s going on in my life

If I have 5-15 minutes, I might:

  • Respond to e-mail
  • Respond to social network updates

Make the world better

I love looking for ways to make the world work a little bit better. There are many different ways I can help: developing websites, offering consulting, drawing, writing, automating, coaching…

If I have a month or more to focus on making the world better, I might:

  • Focus on open source development and contribute a lot of patches or new functionality
  • Build a website or web application using Ruby on Rails, Drupal, WordPress, or another framework
  • Experiment with behavioural change and add the capabilities to Quantified Awesome
  • Help a startup make stuff happen
  • Pick a skill and get better at it

If I have a week or two, I might:

  • Pick an open source project and work on some bugs
  • Learn or improve my understanding of a new skill, tool, or framework

If I have a day or two, I might:

  • Review the documentation or source code for a tool that I’m using
  • Learn about tools that are out there so that I can help other people save time
  • Pick a small change needed in an open source project and make it happen

If I have 3-4 hours, I might:

  • Work on a regular-sized task
  • Browse through the documentation for a tool that I’m using and use it better
  • Invest time into improving my processes
  • Practise a skill
  • Write about what I’m learning
  • Coach someone for an afternoon

If I have an hour or so, I might:

  • Work on a small task
  • Give someone advice or ask someone for advice
  • Clear my inbox

If I have 5-15 minutes, I might:

  • Read a skill-building blog post

Live a simple and healthy life

This is another part that deserves deliberate attention because it can easily slip through the cracks. I want to feel great about life, and it’s easier to do that when you have good health and a lifestyle that doesn’t add to your stress.

If I have a month or more to focus on simplicity and health, I might:

  • Tidy, organize, and streamline the house
  • Bike or walk long distances frequently
  • Learn how to do proper push-ups and get myself across the monkey bars
  • Plant and tend a productive fruit and vegetable garden
  • Try lots of healthy recipes and collect new favourites
  • Replace bad habits with good habits

If I have a week or two, I might:

  • Go through each room of the house looking for things to donate
  • Bike or walk long distances frequently
  • Try a few new recipes and collect new favourites
  • Have a mini-retreat to think about the long term and check that I’m on track
  • Sew my own clothes so that I can wear simple things and avoid the frustration of shopping

If I have a day or two, I might:

  • Go for a long bike ride just because
  • Cook a week of meals

If I have 3-4 hours or so, I might:

  • Write introspective reflections like this so that I can understand life better
  • Clean house
  • Take sewing lessons
  • Plan and plant the garden
  • Try a new recipe
  • Bike (possibly with W- or with friends)
  • Go for a long walk

If I have an hour or so, I might:

  • Tend the garden
  • Go for a walk with W-
  • Do yoga

If I have 5-15 minutes, I might:

  • Check the garden
  • Do some stretches or jumping jacks
  • Do a little yoga