Tag Archives: free time

Ten Things to Do With the Extra Hour

If I had to pick a favourite between the “Spring Forward” and “Fall Back” time change, the winner has to be “Fall Back”. Not only do we regain the hour that we lost in the spring, but in the days that follow, in feeling sleepier at bedtime and falling asleep faster, it seems to make for a more restful night’s sleep.

The downside is that we are thrown back into darkness earlier in the afternoon. Losing that hour of natural light late in the day seems to make those winter months feel like they drag on and on, thus invoking the urge to curl up on the couch with a pillow, a blanket and the remote… or is that just me?

But on the upside, that extra hour holds so many possibilities for things to do. Here are ten ideas:

10. Catch up on the things that weren’t completed when the hour was taken away last spring

In our time-starved, busy lives, it can be pretty amazing how much we can miss that hour in the spring. At a time when we are itching to shed our winter parkas and fling the windows wide open to welcome the new season with open arms, deducting an hour from the spring cleaning, gardening or outdoor sports training agenda seems counterintuitive when there is so much to do.

9. Adjusting the clocks

Thankfully, many of the clocks in the house take care of themselves now and reset automatically. But for the ones that are not connected to computers and that need a little manual intervention (and sometimes require a refresher from its user manual), it seems that a good 15 minutes can be gobbled up just on clock detail.

8. Debating the merits of the time change

Between the recent reports on regions looking to remain on Standard Time year-round, to the articles weighing the pros and cons or speculating on the actual savings of Daylight Savings Time, a reader could easily use up that extra hour just reading up on the extra hour. Continue reading

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Fine Tuning the TV Habit

When I wrote the blog post “Deleting without Watching – The Madness and the Guilt” a little over a year ago, little did I know that I was on the cusp of a serious change when it came to my TV habits.

In that blog post, I shared the guilt I felt in deleting programs my PVR had recorded but that I did not even watch. Scandalous… I know!

But in doing so, I was (sort of) following traditional rules of de-cluttering: if it’s been sitting there for a certain length of time and I haven’t watched it, will I ever get back to it? When I was really honest with myself, the answer was pretty clear.

When the new shows rolled out in the fall months of 2016, I gave several programs a chance, but I was getting a little more ruthless in my programming choices. I set a boundary: if after 2-3 episodes I wasn’t really loving the show, why was I still watching? Sadly, only a few survived and remain on my list today. Funny enough, “Designated Survivor” is one of them. (Is art imitating my TV life?)

I hate to admit that using that same rationale, even some shows I enjoyed in recent years have dropped off my must-see list. What happened to the kid who used to push up the national average for TV watching?

You could say that without really thinking about it, I wasn’t watching TV out of habit anymore, I was watching TV with more of a purpose.

Once the bar was raised, the available space on my PVR started increasing… and increasing. And in doing so, not only had I freed up space on my PVR, but time was freeing up in my life as well for things that mattered more. It was a seismic shift. Continue reading

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Would I Come Back As a Contractor?

Revolving DoorAs the countdown to retirement marches on, surprisingly, the question of whether I would consider coming back as a contract employee comes up at least once per month. The question always makes me smile.

Given that retirement for me is still a few years away, I find the best answer to the contracting question is something along the lines of “Thanks for the vote of confidence! We’ll see when the time comes.”

First and foremost, I take it as an amazing compliment. I know I worked very hard to build a solid career based on quality work, strong ethics, working well with colleagues and maintaining a positive attitude. To me, the contractor question is one that fills me with validation and gratitude.

Over the years I have seen many of my colleagues retire and then come back a few years later for short contracts, sharing their vast corporate knowledge and expertise. It is always a pleasant surprise to see their smiling faces and renewed energy at meetings. Parenthetically, I wish they would stop looking so darn refreshed after a few years away from the office. It makes me very envious!

However, I think it is very natural to dream and fantasize about a time when I can truly reap the rewards of a retirement that I worked a lifetime to build. I look forward to the sense of complete freedom where going to bed promptly, getting up with the alarm, dealing with traffic, and commuting in heavy snow or freezing rain become optional. I look forward to having choices I can make, purely in the moment.

To me, my first priority when I decide it is time to retire is to do just that: enjoy the fruits of my labour: Continue reading

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The Writer All-nighter

Typewriter Back in my university years, between classes, working, socializing, sleeping, watching music videos on Muchmusic and trying to get all my assignments done, there were times that there simply didn’t seem to be enough hours in a day. To try to make ends meet time-wise, I would occasionally revert to the old stand-by: the all-nighter.

I did not do it often, but I do recall the ceremony behind it, ensuring I had all the supplies I needed to make it through the night: coffee, cigarettes, snacks, plenty of good music, typewriter ribbon cartridges and typing paper (because of course, typewriter supplies never ran out during store hours). I did not usually go to caffeine tablets on top of that because they just made me so jittery I couldn’t read my own writing. Red Bull had not been invented yet so we made do with the above even though it was not the healthiest of combinations by any stretch of the imagination. And for the record, I quit smoking around 1990-91.

I do not want to over-romanticize the all-nighters of 1986, but there was something magical about the peace and solitude of the middle of the night, clickity-clacking on my Mom’s typewriter in my man cave, and producing some quality essays that earned me some decent marks.

I recall those smoke-filled nights, with a gentle breeze wafting through the window, expanding my musical horizons listening to all kinds of classical, jazz, rock, pop and instrumental artists like Kitaro and Tangerine Dream.

I even remember a couple of quick runs to the 24 hour grocery store around the corner to pick up more snacks, only to find that I could sing “All By Myself” at the top of my lungs in aisle 7 and really mean it. (I tried it once, it was most liberating.)

It did not matter whether Continue reading

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Deleting Without Watching – The Madness and the Guilt

Remote A couple of weeks ago I did the unthinkable… I deleted 25 shows from my personal video recorder (PVR), without even watching them!

It is not because the shows weren’t good. In fact, some of them were shows I enjoyed quite a bit. Unfortunately, it came down to one simple fact: there just aren’t enough hours in a day.

The sad part is that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to binge watching: game show marathons, “Bewitched” marathons, “The Nanny” marathons, “Dallas” marathons, watching an entire 24 hour rotation of MuchMusic (once, back in University, …I dared myself), and the list goes on. Television has been a passion since I was very young, as well as a good companion to a “latch key” kid (who also happened to be an only child).

I was one of those kids who pushed up the national average for the number of hours that kids watched TV. I could have easily put in 3 hours per evening during the week and on the weekends, cartoons in the morning and family programming in the evening. It is probably no surprise that the first book I learned to read was the TV Guide.

However, my conundrum is this: I seem to have the willpower to not fall into the time trap of hours of video games on my iPad, cute cat pictures on Instagram or chain watching YouTube videos (unless they are vintage Price is Right episodes, in which case all bets are off). However I really have to exercise tough love with myself when it comes to watching television. A few endearing characters, clever writing, a storyline to make me laugh or think… I can easily get hooked.

September and October brought us a new raft of shows to watch and even though I thought I made careful choices to ensure I wasn’t painted into a corner, I still seemed to be drowning in programming. Continue reading

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Where Did the Little Voice Go?

Pool chairs, Tropicana Hotel, Las Vegas 2007 As any diligent writer would do, whether I am away from home for a weekend or a week, part of my packing routine includes gathering drafts of unfinished blogs, up-to-date outlines of stories I am working on, office supplies to keep the drafts and side notes organized and a reliable little notebook and pen, in case a moment of brilliance strikes when the airplane seat belt sign is on. In a nutshell, my carry-on becomes a mobile Staples store.

When traveling, one never knows when one might be spending unplanned time in the airplane terminal, on the tarmac or on a long layover. By the same token, one never knows when a shift in time zones might lead to a sleepless night. It is with the best of intentions that I ensure I am ready to make the best use of any free time that presents itself to capture the stories and ideas floating around in my head.

However, in the last three major trips, something happened: I did not write. I did not review unfinished blog drafts, I did not scribble any notes, I don’t even think I added more than 10 words to the Notes app on my iPad. What happened?

It is like that little narrator voice that speaks to me and is constantly bombarding me with ideas, phrases and puzzle pieces of dialogue (and often at inconvenient times too, I might add) suddenly disappeared.

It was when I was unpacking from our most recent trip to New Orleans that I realized Continue reading

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Thank You 2015 & Happy New 2016

New Year's festivitiesAs I look back over this past year as a writer and a blogger, I am reminded that the epiphanies in the writing journey are never ending.

Despite the best of intentions, I did not fully hit the goals I set out for myself for 2015. My plan was to try to publish two blogs per week, to try to dabble a bit more with the video blog and to send out my first submissions for writing competitions. Unfortunately something happened… Life!

It is great to have goals and targets, but epiphany #1 was the realization that sometimes they need to be flexible if quality is also part of the equation. I would rather delay my blog post for a few days (or even a week) and post something for which I am proud, rather than posting something to meet the deadline that in my opinion might be below my usual standard. The challenge is to not beat myself up for missing a weekly target even if the result is worth it.

Where life tends to complicate things is in the fact that I am still a part-time writer. Thankfully, my writing at this point in my life is for fun, for practice and as an outlet, with no real pressures or commitments to publishers or agents (yet). I am still my own boss in this realm and it works for me.

Where the balance is a delicate one is the career, the job and the life of service that still pays the bills. While I am not sure if I chose that life or if it chose me, my career has been an important part of my life and will be paying the bills at least for another 5 years. The fortunate part is that there are some days I get to do a fair bit of writing at my day job. The bad part is that there are some days I get to do a fair bit of writing and am not in the mood to continue writing when I get home.

When I spend an entire day at my desk composing challenging written works to the point of feeling mentally fried, Continue reading

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