Organized leisure

“Leisure time is too precious to be totally leisurely about leisure.”

– Laura Vanderkam in “Tranquility by Tuesday”

The other day, my 7 year old daughter was talking to our babysitter about the books she is currently reading in school. I was deeply engrossed in my computer work on the couch nearby, when she suddenly turned around and asked “Mom, what book are you reading now?”

I was caught off-guard, and felt a little uncomfortable in front of the new babysitter, but decided to tell the truth: “Tranquility by Tuesday”. The sitter couldn’t resist laughing at my choice of “light” reading material.

But yes, I have been a devotee of Laura Vanderkam’s diligent time tracking for close to 10 years now, initially ignited by her book “168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think”. And after reading her latest book about how to maximize the amount of time we spend on activities we enjoy, I really took the quote about leisure time to heart. It is something I have always strived to do.

Photo by Nina Uhlikova on

Organized relaxation

Several years ago, I read a great article about how a super organized person decided to take a break from his “to do” list and enjoy some less structured time.  It is really unfortunate that I cannot find the original article to reference here, because it was downright hilarious. Apologies.

The author wrote about how he usually planned his time to the minute.  However, after reading about the potential benefits of relaxation and spontaneity, he decided to spend one day outside of his comfort zone of “to do“ lists and try to enjoy some time off.  This decision was immediately followed by him frantically thinking about how to best spend his time off.  Basically defeating the purpose of the exercise of relaxation and spontaneity.

Leisure time is a rare treat, so we need to make the most of it

Soon after reading the article, I found out that my husband was going to attend a conference at a luxury resort and the attendees’ significant others were welcome to join as well. We had to go to great lengths to arrange for childcare, but I was determined not to miss this opportunity to take some time off from the grunt work of daily life.

As a working mom of 2 school age girls, I rarely find a substantial block of time to relax and just be myself. And whenever it does happen, my immediate reaction is “OK, how do I get the absolute maximal benefit out of this time?”

Similarly to the author I referred to earlier, I had put such great hope on these 3 days, that despite having complete freedom for a change, I did not know how to accomplish everything.  It was borderline ridiculous how I thought that my spa appointments would interfere with my productivity in reading a book and writing my blog.

Photo by James Wheeler on

Leisure time is a rare treat, so we need to make the most of it

Fast forward to today, and the same thing happened during the first half of Thanksgiving week this year, when I finally gathered up the courage to leave the kids with my husband and took a 3-day solo vacation in Philadelphia. I was dreaming of taking peaceful walks in the city, reading, writing my blog and planning my life.

And I was diligently entering these things as time blocks on my Google calendar… I could not fathom just going with the flow. I crave freedom, yet I need structure. I need to feel productive no matter what.

The bottom line is that whenever I do get that rare chance to slow down and reevaluate my life, I keep coming back to what is essential. While I may be a wife, a mother, a daughter, a scientist, I am also a person. And as that stand-alone person, I need art in my life. It is my organized leisure that makes me whole.

Current work in progress based on neurons in the olfactory epithelium

Art is my emotional outlet and my oasis.  I use art to express my feelings and work through life issues.  Come join me on this journey of letting go of control and letting the creative process take over.  You will get access to all of the behind the scenes footage and see the major breakthroughs that translate into new artwork.

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