I have a tendency to make mental timelines for my day, especially when I’m left to my own devices. If Andy happens to be out of town on a weekend, I’ll have my day all mapped out in my head, even though I’m not answering to anyone but myself.

In some ways this is good, because it helps me make sure I do everything I want and need to do. Actually, more often than not, my timeline is really of fun stuff, not necessary stuff. The necessary stuff I write down or type onto a physical list. It’s the fun stuff that just stays in my head.

An example of a lazy Saturday timeline:

  • Wake up
  • Make a cup of tea and get back in bed to read
  • I’ve been reading for about half an hour, so it’s time to get up and move on to the next thing.
  • Hmmm, I think I’ll go to the pool at 11:30 and stay for an hour.
  • Now I will watch 2 and only 2 episodes of this show I’m enjoying.
  • I’d better start cooking dinner at 6:30.

I do something similar on weekday mornings. My work is fairly casual, and unless I have something on the calendar, it is mostly up to me as to what time I need to arrive. And yet, I still give myself a timeline.

Again, mostly a good thing: it keeps me accountable and makes sure I don’t put work on the backburner.

But where I run into trouble with it is when my personally-imposed, arbitrary timelines start stressing me out! If I have nothing else to do on a given Saturday, why do I have to stop myself from reading after half an hour? If I’m having a good time at the pool, why should I feel like I have to leave after an hour (as long as I have more sunscreen to apply)? If no one is waiting to meet with me at work, why shouldn’t I spend ten extra minutes at home to wash two dishes that are in the sink and pet my new cat?

Another arena where my timeline gets me into trouble is when I’m imposing it onto myself and I’m not home alone. Apparently I am not the only partner who does this! We were talking with some new friends who had us over a drink about one of their tendencies to have planned out a day and not communicated it to the other. Whoops! Guilty as charged. If I’ve mentally decided that at 5:30 I’m going to drink a beer and watch an episode of The Little Couple, but haven’t told Andy that, and then get irked when he suggests we go for a walk at that time, that’s silly! I should either communicate it (and perhaps he’d want to join) or be flexible enough to realize that I can relinquish my weird control over my leisure to enjoy a different leisure activity with a person I love!

I think I’m mellowing a lot as I get older and as I spend more time in the real world, and I’m glad. I think it makes me more pleasant to be around, an easier person to get along with, and more relaxed. There’s no reason to be so uptight that I plan my own days to the hour when it’s not necessary.

This morning I dawdled juuuust a little at home, washing the aformentioned dishes and petting my cat. I got to work about 20 minutes later than I was “supposed to” (in my own mind). The world didn’t end. The office building didn’t burn down. And I was in a great mood.

Case in point.

Laura Lindeman

Laura Lindeman