It’s 4:00pm on a weekday and I’ve hit a wall with my work. I want to take a break, but with what? Should I watch a DVR-ed episode of one of my shows? Should I pick up the memoir I’m reading? Should I read an article in one of the magazines filling up my shelf? Should I listen to a podcast? Should I work on one of the writing projects I’m not (yet) getting paid for? Should I just turn the TV to a random channel and scroll through Instagram on my phone? I know this may seem like a silly conundrum to some, but it is one I deal with frequently, and I often find myself ultimately unhappy with the decision I make.
First, a rundown of all the content I attempt to consume on a regular basis.
I watch two shows that are currently airing new episodes, Grey’s Anatomy and Good Girls. (For the sake of this discussion, I’m not counting the shows that Jeff and I watch together—Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Shameless, Legion, Sneaky Pete, Silicon Valley, Last Week Tonight, AP Bio and New Girl. Or the shows that aren’t on right now, like Unreal, which just ended).
I watch one show’s past seasons on Netflix, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
I subscribe to three monthly magazines, Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit and Outside.
I am reading Tina Brown’s memoir, The Vanity Fair Diaries. (I am almost done with this, and a lengthy post will be coming soon!) And I have an endless list of books I want and plan to read.
I subscribe to 10 podcasts, some of which release up to three new episodes per week, while others only release a new episode every two weeks or so. They include Pardon My Take, Pop Culture Happy Hour, Anna Faris is Unqualified, Armchair Expert, Fresh Air, KFC Radio, Reply All, Lore, The Sporkful and How Did This Get Made.
I am currently working on a nonfiction book project and taking an online class that will lead into a fiction book project.
I really enjoy just zoning out to shows like Chopped or Say Yes to the Dress.
Now, I have been able to compartmentalize some of these things to their own places in the day. Between 7:30 and 9:00am tends to be magazine time, and I usually only read my book after I get in bed until I go to sleep. Podcasts tend to be reserved for listening while I’m doing other tasks, like cooking, cleaning and eating. But that still leaves the book projects and the TV shows, which I suppose is where the issue truly lies.
If I choose to watch an episode of TV, then I’m wasting time I could have spent making progress on the book. If I choose to work on the book, then I’m letting the episodes pile up and it will just take me longer to get through them. I want to be able to enjoy the work being done by actors and writers I enjoy, but I also want to carve out enough time for my own work. When I don’t choose the book in these instances, I feel as though I’ve made the wrong decision, and that I didn’t make the most out of the day. But I certainly have days when, after writing for six hours, all I want to do is give my brain a break and watch TV.
I think that some of this stress that I’m putting on myself comes from the fact that, as a freelancer, I am forced to schedule everything for myself every day. I don’t have anyone telling me I need to be at my desk by 9:00am and that I can’t leave until 5:30pm. Now there is absolutely a degree of freedom and self-reliance in this that has been liberating for me, and I certainly feel that I work more efficiently now, that I am working on my time, than I did when I was doing so on someone else’s. But there is also a degree of fatigue that sets in when one is responsible for planning out every moment of their day. And yes, that fatigue does occasionally translate to an episode of TV at 4:00pm on a Tuesday, or a rom-com at 2:00pm on a Friday.
I’m not sure what the solution is here. Don’t be so hard on myself? Easier said than done. Stop finding new TV shows? I just plain don’t want to do that. Go to the other extreme and schedule my days even more strictly? This idea I have toyed with a bit, or at least stage one of it, which I think would be to keep a detailed log of my current schedule for an entire week and see how I’m actually using my time. But I am a bit afraid to do this, worried that it might just affirm my self-criticisms about the amount of time I am wasting, for lack of a gentler word. However, I can confidently say that I don’t enjoy the pangs of regret that occasionally come around 8:00pm when I feel like I didn’t use my day to the fullest—that’s the part I truly want to get rid of. Maybe I’ll figure it out eventually?