What Would You Do If You Had More ‘Free’ Time?: A Quiz With No Wrong Answers

This will drive my fellow procrastinators wild, but here goes:

If you had more free time you would spend it doing the following (check all that apply):

  • Helping Others: Working with elder or handicapped neighbours, cleaning up the neighbourhood, working with local charities, etc.
  • Getting into Better Shape: Exercising, yoga, pilates, meditation, self-defence
  • Practicing to Get Better at Something: Musical instrument, artistic endeavor, writing etc.
  • Learning Something: That course you always wanted to take
  • Traveling: That place you always wanted to visit, or just that distant relative or friend you haven’t seen in too long
  • Creating Something New
  • Reconnecting: With nature, with people you love, with yourself
  • Starting Something: A neighbourhood dinner club, a scrapbook, a(nother) blog, an intentional community, a vegetable garden
  • Recreation: Playing or watching a favourite sport, hiking, walking
  • Catching Up On Your Sleep
  • Researching Something: Your family history, your community history, the native species in your area, who sells organic produce and free-range eggs near you
  • Eating Better: Preparing and eating more nutritious foods
  • Working (heh, didn’t think so)
  • Just Being: Thinking, observing, watching the kids, playing with the dog
  • Having Sex
  • Something Else You Keep Putting Off

Now I could be really annoying and ask why you’re not doing these things. But this quiz isn’t to try to make you feel guilty, it’s to encourage you (in the spirit of yesterday’s post) to start something, to be generous to yourself.

urgentimportantJust pick one or two of the items you checked off, the ones that are most important (furthest to the right on the table at right, not closest to the top). Now list, in order, at least the first five things you would have to do, the first five steps, to make them happen. Very concrete and specific actions, that you can check off when they’re done. And break the steps down into actions that take no more than two hours each to do, as much as possible.

Now put the very first step from each item on your ‘to do’ list. And make a pledge to do one ‘next step’ from one of these items every day, or at least every week. And do it.

I’m more anal than most, but I find putting these things on my Getting Things Done list (which I’m still using faithfully and successfully, by the way) works for me. In its latest incarnation, my list looks like this, sorted by schedule date (for those not familiar with GTD, N stands for tasks with only one Next Action step, P for projects with a whole series of Next Actions, A for appointments and meetings scheduled for a specific time, and W for tasks ‘on hold’ waiting for someone else to do something):

Bucket Action Name /
Waiting For /
Project Outcome
Deadline /
Schedule Time
Tickle Date

Project 1 action 1 description
Project 1 action 2 description
Project 1 Outcome/Name
2005-04-30 Sa
2005-05-01 Su




Next action description
2005-04-30 Sa
Waiting for (person’s name)
2005-05-01 Su
Appointment/Meeting description
2005-05-02 Mo 14:30

Next action description
2005-05-02 Mo


Project 2 action 1 description
Project 2 action 2 description
Project 2 Outcome/Name
2005-05-02 Mo
2005-05-03 Tu





When I schedule activities, the Urgent items (U) always seem to rise to the top, but I make room for one Important item (I) every day. It’s a pledge to myself. I’ve found there are rarely items that are both Urgent and Important, and that when I realize that an item is neither Urgent nor Important (quadrant IV tasks) it can often be taken off the list entirely.

Part of the challenge of reducing the number of Urgent tasks so there is more time for the Important ones is learning to say no. It’s one of the hardest lessons to learn, and I confess I’m still not very good at it. But when I’m forced to shift one of my Important actions to a later date, to make room for something that is neither Urgent nor Important, or which could easily be delegated to someone else, it’s teaching me when to say no.

What would you do if you had more ‘free’ time? Enough said.

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2 Responses to What Would You Do If You Had More ‘Free’ Time?: A Quiz With No Wrong Answers

  1. Aleah says:

    Great little exercise, Dave.I find that while I am very good about creating balance in my life – eating well, getting fresh air, making sure I get enough sleep – I struggle with the guilt I feel for allowing myself the balance.Perhaps it is that Midwestern Protestant work ethic creeping into my subconscious, but I often feel a bit guilty when I hear those around me talk (sometimes brag, strangely enough) about how little sleep they have had, or how many hours they kept the candle burning. We are caught between two extremes – one, to create an endless work day of productivity and efficiency and feel guilty for the other aspects of our life we give up – the other, to choose not to work 70 hours a week and get sleep, sex, healthy food, social time and feel guilty for the time we take to provide for our needs.Does anyone else feel this push-pull trap?

  2. Intriguing exercise. I wonder how nature handles this Urgent/Important balance? Any thoughts? I use my BackyardNature.com website to keep some structure in my time for what is important to me — learning and connecting with nature. Having structure seems to be an important part of that balancing act. Kind of like having a “habitat” as a structure in which to thrive.

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