A month ago, one of my neighbor friends asked if I had begun my summer job.
At the time I hadn’t so she said, “Oh, you must be bored by now.”
I raised an eyebrow at the statement. “I still have a couple decades’ worth of projects yet to complete,” I replied. “So, I’m good to go.” I added a laughing emoji because we were communicating via text, but I was serious.
It’s safe to say that I haven’t been bored in decades. But as I considered her statement, I did recall that while growing up one of my catchphrases was, “Mom, I’m bored.” I’m sure my mother can confirm that. I imagine, though, that I’m not unique in this respect as I suspect most kids tend to bore easily.
As an adult, however, I believe that boredom is an affront to the living. There’s so much access to information, learning opportunities, and diverse experiences that being bored in this day and age is unfathomable to me.
All of that said, I completely understand the inherent challenge of having too much time on your hands for far too long. This challenge often takes the form of diminishing returns. This is to say that if you don’t stay focused your creativity and production can dwindle exponentially when faced with a surplus of time and no real deadlines looming over you.
For those of you who don’t personally know me, I’ve led a relatively unorthodox life. For many years I’ve maintained a low overhead which has afforded me a lot of time to work on personal projects. This is because I’ve never been married, don’t have kids, don’t have a mortgage, and have rarely held a traditional full-time job. When I turned 17 and enlisted in the US Marine Corps, it was like I declared to the universe that from there on out I’d be walking a path less traveled.
Mind you, I never set out or had the intention of leading some revolutionary or counterculture-type lifestyle. I simply wanted to do what I wanted to do. So, I embraced the process of discovery in an effort to figure out what inspired and motivated me. And I wanted to take whatever I did as far as it needed to go.
That last bit is the most critical element. In other words, time has always been the most valuable thing to me. For without enough time, you can’t accomplish very much and your experiences lean toward the superficial.
I don’t mean to imply that you have to take everything you do to the umpteenth degree. But nearly everything in life can yield far richer results when studied in an immersive context (i.e. going all in). And, obviously, this takes time.
But time alone is not enough. Having a lot of time on your hands doesn’t guarantee you’re going to accomplish anything meaningful or large-scale. To spontaneously hand a person two or more months of unstructured time can be a nightmare to some people. Not everyone operates on the same frequency. Some people need to schedule their day by the hour, while others prefer a more flexible routine.
The bottom line is that time and time management need to go hand-in-hand if you want to make the most of this lifetime.
For me, these past couple of months have been routine. The California shelter-in-place order hit at about the same time as the spring “shoulder” season at Lake Tahoe (i.e. the time between winter and summer tourism). So, normally I would’ve been out of a job between March and May anyway, and working on all of the projects I neglected over winter.
In some respects, I’ve become an expert on time management. Yes, I can hear all of my friends chuckling because to know me is to know that I’m a few minutes late to nearly everything I do. I attribute this to my constant attempt at trying to stuff too many things into too small of a space.
But, to me, time management has little to do with punctuality. Rather, it involves knowing how best to schedule your time in order to achieve maximum effectiveness. This is applicable whether you have an hour or a year of free time with which to work.
So, my expertise in time management lies less in administrative capacities and more in conceptual planning. Essentially, I’ve just learned to pace myself over the long-term so that I’m consistently producing quality work and/or having meaningful experiences.
There’s a natural ebb and flow when it comes to inspiration, creativity, and (subsequently) productivity. You must learn to recognize the appropriate times during the creation of a project, goal, or experience when it’s necessary to hit the gas or pump the brakes. For example, if you treat the marathon like a sprint, you risk burnout early in the event. Or if you act as if you have all the time in the world, you’ll never feel the sense of urgency required to actually bring a thing to its completion.
Lastly, yet no less critical, is simply knowing when a thing is done. One brushstroke too many causes a painting to look tired and overworked. So I prefer to stop one or two brushstrokes early, leaving something to the viewers’ imagination. Everyone loves to spot potential. Few people celebrate what could’ve been.
I admit that soon after the brief conversation I had with my neighbor I was, in fact, beginning to lose steam. Even a seasoned pro like me who routinely has lots of time to myself was losing focus and struggling to finish projects. Over the years, I’ve found that there are few things more frustrating than having time at my disposal but no motivation to accomplish anything.
Fortunately, my summer job began soon after the conversation. Now I’m back to having a set schedule that will last through September. I appreciate this transition back to having a predictable routine with a defined end-date because it motivates me to use my current free time (which is a lot less than the past few months) more wisely. And, at the same time, I can begin to plan some larger projects for when the summer comes to a close and I’m faced with my usual 2-month break between jobs that yields no income but lots of time to get shit done.
Has this spring’s shelter-in-place order caused you to go stir crazy?
Or, has it given you the chance to deal with some long-neglected projects?
Post your thoughts in the comment section below.
Here’s an article I wrote with trail data for hiking around Tahoe Meadows on the north shore of Lake Tahoe. Last year, I hiked here a couple of times in order to spot new wildflowers for the Tahoe Wildflower Big Year 2019.
Click the image to read the article.
Below are some designs I uploaded to my RedBubble account that feature Northern Flickers. You’ll probably recognize the two images on either side as they were last month’s newsletter header image. Again, if there are photos and images of mine that you’re interested in buying as prints or on other available merchandise, let me know!
Click an image to view the design and its corresponding product availability.
Thanks for being a part of my life. Until next time…
Tahoe Trail Guide is an online magazine for sharing my knowledge about hiking, backpacking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing, as well as information about traveling to (and through) the Lake Tahoe region. I refine that information for a younger audience and produce it in a printed format under the title Wilderness Activity Books. Lastly, Tahoe Swag is a collection of art and design products I create based on my love of the outdoors and appreciation for Lake Tahoe.
Hey Jared – great post and your photos are fantastic. The summer tanager is stunning – something you can always remember was your own contribution to Tahoe birding history. Grateful to have bumped into you in the field – good time management that! Thanks again for being willing to chase a potentially rare bird – flexibility grants you that amazing privilege…
Yeah, it was great meeting you too! Cool connections happen when you’re open to them! And thanks for the kind words about the newsletter. I’ve been enjoying publishing them each month. I try to get them out in the first week of the month and write something thought-provoking, but that doesn’t always happen 🙂
I haven’t been back to the hummingbird spot yet. Work has been so busy this past week. I think people have been trying to make the most of the last days before school starts for the kids (even if it’s just online for most of them).
Let’s definitely keep in touch!
Hi there Jared ! I enjoyed listening to your audio log – great stuff !! And the pictures you’ve posted – fantastic !! Birds are such lovely creatures !! Regarding your audio comments, I have always preferred to have a structured schedule which makes me appreciate and use my down time more efficiently and effectively !! Having a defined set of time certainly allows one to pace him/herself and break things down to achievable goals. Jared, I hope you have a great summer and I do hope to see you one of these years !! I am so proud of you – you were a kind and sweet little nephew and you have grown up to be a fine thinking man !! Love you lots, my lovely nephew !! Aunt Rose x x x
Thanks, Aunt Rose!
I appreciate the kind words and the feedback. Having at least some type of plan and schedule regardless of activity always seems to help with efficiency and ensuring that you’re maximizing the time at hand. When I’m heading home from work, I have to mentally prepare myself for the evening by visualizing some type of activity. Otherwise, I tend to find myself walking in the door then dilly dallying or sitting on the couch for the rest of the evening. haha. If that’s the plan, that’s cool, but most of the times I would like to get at least one constructive thing done before the day is out!
Yeah, I’ve been birding a lot this year. Fun to find new (to me) species and provides a whole other type of outdoor experience (compared to just following an established trail. Not that the latter is bad, but I like the spontaneity that comes with following birds. The engagement is quite revealing.
Hope you are doing well. And, take care!
Hi Jared, Wonderful photos as usual. Are those quails on the cover of this months newsletter? I think Mike’s sister had one on her fence in April. She lives in Arizona. Time Management: my worse enemy. Being bored: unheard of. I do apologize as sometimes the month goes by and I haven’t even opened your newsletter (shame on me). I honestly miss out on a lot of GREAT reading, not just from your newsletter. Then there are the magazines, I have Smithsonians, New Yorkers and countless wildlife news articles that I just don’t seem to getting around to. I have projects too. From home cleaning (Mike is pretty tough to stay on top of, lol), more home decorating (I am a woman, after all), re-painting some yard statues, oh yea! it’s summer, THE YARD! I’d like to get around to framing some of my backyard wildlife photos; as soon as I get them out of my camera, sheeesh! And oh! I want to find time to colour in my Lake Tahoe colouring book. The constant joys though that I do find time to do is to take care of our backyard wildlife and rehab Eastern Cottontails from the Wildlife Sanctuary to be released back into the wild. Next week I’m taking 7 days to visit my family in Florida, I am looking forward to it and of course I will be leaving Mike labeled bags of food for our critters outside. Cottontails will be released by then. So, you just keep doing what you do Jared for you are envied from this Tree for YOUR time management.
Have a GREAT summer, my friend
Peace & Love
As always, thanks for the kind words 🙂 No worries on not reading or responding quickly. I can’t tell you how many newsletters I’m subscribed to yet can’t find the time to read them. That’s kind of why I try to post a lot of photos — easier to do just a quick scan of the pictures. haha.
Yes, the header photo is of California Quail (CA’s state bird!).
Sounds like you have a lot on your plate, as well. But it also sounds like they are all fun projects. I like that cottontail rehabilitation one especially. Hope you have a good time visiting family.
Take care, and stay safe!
Calming. Thanks for sharing. I’m loving your bird photos.
Thanks so much, Mary. Glad you think the pics. I’ve been enjoying getting out and finding new species 🙂