Your fingers have finally left the keyboard; your vehicle of intellectual destiny (your laptop) is wheezing a slow death to the “off” button and that ripe IPA in the fridge is hissing. Eight hours have gone by - or was it ten? - and the night is outstretched like a ruby carpet. You could do anything. You could boil homemade preserves, learn the lyrics to the Ukranian national anthem or run two blocks to the nearest gas station, buy some CBD and run back. From six o’clock in the evening until 10:30, the mind is free to wander the moors - but for most of us, myself included, I find that the night is wasted in front of Gilmore Girls, watching the useless drama unfold between Jess, Dean and Rory.
Sitting down in front of my laptop - yet another screen - started feeling lackluster and like a horrible misallocation of time. I was frustrated that nothing of creative substance was created out-of-hours and that I was scrolling on Instagram instead of cracking open my Latin textbook. I’m sure most working adults can relate to this. The overwhelming desire to make and craft an idea or physical product is so strong, but that energy is sapped by 5 p.m. Then there’s the slow shuffle to the beer shelf and circular conversations like “well, my friend recommended this show but it only has 45% on Rotten Tomatoes…”
To stop this utter mind gluttony, I’ve been bashing out of the virtual world and actively making time for new & old hobbies.1 Saying “no” to easy entertainment is hard, especially when your brain needs several gauze bandages and shots of tequila to recover from a draining day at work. Even in writing this article (at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday night), I feel like a pudgy white puppy jumping over tiny hoops during a dog show and falling over. The strain is worth it though - it makes working hours melt away and the time for personal projects unfurl. The activity list below is tailored to my interests, but hopefully it will inspire readers to abandon lukewarm shows!
1. Learn to Rollerblade
Picking up a moderately difficult sport as an adult is no joke - I’ve been rollerblading since early August yet I’m still falling on sidewalks and terrified of tiny rocks. Going downhill is out of the question as is the T-stop, circle stop and anything else besides vanilla forward motion. Although my heart races uncomfortably when I put on the skates, I also love the euphoria of facing my fears. When I come home in the evening, sweating and smelly, I feel like I’ve wrestled with a wheelie devil. Trying any new sport is an incredible way to stay in shape and separate work from play. Tennis, canoeing, Krav Maga, skateboarding, you name it - they all massage the muscles and let the monkey brain take over for a bit.
2. Boil your own Jam & Other Preserves
This is a niche hobby, but preserving fruits and boiling your own jam is a folksy way to make your sweet tooth happy. I’m a huge foodie, so leveling up to an “artisan” is an intimate way to feel connected to my palette. The process is intense but strangely calming - sterilize the mason jars, boil the sugars and fruits and let your secret spices marinate. It’s a sexy, thick art that could be at a farmers market or a bougie restaurant. And canning itself is super simple!
3. Write in a Chakra Journal
What better way to spend your time than exploring your inner being? It’s been the year of spirituality for me, and I’m at a place where chakra energy, past lives and meditation are not conspiracy theories anymore. Being in the “rat race” takes a toll on your mental health - when I get a ping from someone asking, “can you explain this number?,” I start sweating and get all tense inside. Writing in my chakra journal and understanding where my imbalances might be has been cleansing. Perfection is obviously impossible, but a few red candles to stabilize my root chakra sounds good to me. :) The chakra journal I use is “A Little Bit of Chakras” by Amy Leigh & Chad Mercree.
4. Read & Summarize Ancient Literature
I’m telling you guys, reading and summarizing The Conquest of Gaul* is a delicious use of one hour. I usually squeeze it in during lunchtime or after work, my prime Julius Caesar fangirl hours. After listening to the Dan Carlin Hardcore History episode “The Celtic Holocaust,”* I knew I had to read and analyze the source code. Dipping between the ancient world and modern industry accounting is weird, but I like the shifts in perspective. When I’m stressing about warranty, I calm myself by thinking about things that could be worse - I could be a fierce Celt in the Nervii tribe when Caesar was molesting my culture, population and historical record.
In the same strain, studying an ancient (preferably dead) language is a vibrant way to clear your head. What’s better than reading a translated version of The Conquest of Gaul than reading the original text in Latin?!
5. Publish a Newsletter
Keeping up with friends & family, especially during a pandemic, is 10x harder when you start working full-time. Conversations become draining, you somehow become an awkward carrot and work friends dominate your social sphere. Images and memories of college friends - those nights drinking specialty cocktails at The Dime or singing Bowling for Soup at Barcade - vanish. You peruse the occasional Instagram Story, but it doesn’t really mean anything.
To fix this problem, I created my own personal (and free) newsletter on TinyLetter. My distribution isn’t wide, but I have about 50 subscribers of close family and friends that I want to keep up with. Writing an email every month is low lift and high return - and it allows me to improve my writing skills and hear from my grandparents or mom’s best friends. Generating meaning outside of work is the main point of this article, and nothing is more fulfilling than real connections with people.
6. Open Source Thinking (Awake Meditation)
It sounds boring, but sitting in a comfortable recliner and staring blankly out the window is refreshing. When is the last time you sat without holding a phone or processing a thousand petty thoughts at once? The other weekend, I was sick of this incessant urge to “do something” and simply rested without any purpose or goal. I’m usually on-the-go and a self-proclaimed energizer bunny, but open source thinking can be powerful. In the space of 10-15 minutes, clarity about my career, entrepreneur ideas and family relationships appeared. I wouldn’t call it meditation - Andy Puddicombe’s voice wasn’t tunneling into my ears and into my wallet - but it was an insightful form of reflection, even for me.
This post is a journal entry rather than a blanket “how to” guide, but hopefully inspiration will follow for my readers. Life is unexpected and dulcimer outside of your company-issued laptop, and literally anything can be learned or tried. It takes some upfront determination, but at the end of the day, streaming videos cannot compare to reality.
I’ve been organizing my outside time with Notion, a free productivity tool that includes databases, calendars, nested pages and a fun user interface. By segmenting my day, I can plan when I’m exercising, reading, writing, talking with family, thinking freely etc. - it helps having specific times for these events (i.e. write about The Conquest of Gaul at 8:00 p.m.) instead of a laundry list. ↩︎