Some people claim life should be as spontaneous as possible—that to rip the spontaneity out of life is to also rip out the very essence of life. Other people promote the regimented life. They argue that humans function best when they are able to stick to a set schedule.
I have experience with both such lifestyles. I have had an unstructured life (namely college) and I have been a creature of habit. For me, the regimented life is where I most excel.
When I stick (or try to stick) to a schedule, I tend to get more done. Sure I might miss out on some things, but I am more focused and better able to accomplish my goals. Back in college, I went with the flow, and that tended to lead me nowhere but to dodging assignments.
That said, can you just box out every hour of your day? At one point does a schedule become too rigid? Of course life will interfere, as it always does. So some might say: what’s the point?
For most of us, there are several schedules in our lives that will rarely change. We will sleep each night and work each weekday. We will eat three square meals a day, and maybe a snack at night. We will have commutes, perhaps church on Sunday, and there will also be children’s schedules or spouse’s schedules to consider.
So, for the average person, how much time is there left either way? Whether we structure those hours or not?
For me, I know that if I wake up early I can accomplish something before work. Perhaps I’ll write a freelance blog post or read a book about my industry. After work but before dinner is when I try to hit the Gym 2-4 times per week. It’s from the time I finish dinner to the time I go to bed (along with the weekends) that are my true free time. I think this is in line with the average person in a developed country.
So the questions becomes, how do you spend those hours. For me, if I don’t plan something better, I’ll end up watching television or wasting time on the internet. This is true even though I don’t have cable and have to watch any television through the internet.
If I sit down and write a list of goals or standards, however, then I might accomplish something more—even if it’s just reading for pleasure. For me, I need to have a structure in place or I’ll skip the gym, not eat proper meals, and end up dawdling my nights away watching Downton Abby or Mad Men with my Wife.
I met a man once who worked as a cop (the night shift) and had his own solo law practice that he was developing during the day. He said he would sleep on a cot at his office sometimes. He did this for 10 years and then retired as a cop. Now he earns a sick pension and has a busy law practice. I’m not sure how he did it—particularly with a family, but he did. And now he and his family are reaping the rewards. When I asked him about it he said that he had goals—that he accomplished what he did because that’s how he wanted to use his free time.
What are your goals? Is it to create a side business? Learn more about a subject that interests you by reading or taking courses? Furthering your education? Look at the Financial Blogger, he has started/raised a family, worked successfully as a financial planner, started an always expanding side-business, written books, and furthered his education. I’m sure he’s done all this because he’s very goal-oriented and is an expert in managing time. What’s holding us back?
Now, there are moments in life that you have to cease. I’m not arguing with that. Sometimes it’s good for your soul to relax, kill time, or engage in the adult equivalent of “unstructured play.” But for me at least, I need regimentation to be successful and meet my goals.
How about you? I’d be interested to hear differing opinions on this subject.