I pressed the button on the kettle, and clicked into Facebook. Sucky-sucky time-sucker lovely Facebook. But it’s OK – according to my own personal virtual rulebook, I’m allowed to scroll through my phone while waiting for the kettle to boil. Especially when just back from an internet-free day out with the kids.
My husband was out on the road, supervising three small cyclists, but a few minutes later (kettle now boiled twice, no tea made, Facebook still sucking) he arrived back in and closed the door. Seeing my “Eh, you’re on duty – back out you go” face, he explained that the three kids had been invited in to a neighbour’s house to play with their friends.
“Are you sure it’s OK?” I said, finally grabbing some cups.
“Yes, definitely. I’ll go down for them in half an hour,” he replied, sitting down at the kitchen table, iPad open before the sentence was finished.
Well then. Time for tea.
I sat down opposite my husband, and in the eerie silence, we sipped tea and read the entire internet. I checked Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat and then went back to Facebook in case anything new had come up while I was on Twitter and Instagram and Snapchat. And of course, there were new posts, and I scrolled on down, and sipped my tea, enjoying the unexpected and unfamiliar peace.
But no. Something wasn’t right.
“This isn’t right,” I said to my husband. “I can’t just waste this free time scrolling through Facebook. I should be doing something constructive.”
He looked up at me with an “I’m kind of enjoying this whole thing” face and went back to his iPad.
“No, I need to do something,” I said, considering which would make me feel better – getting the bed linen changed or hanging out the laundry. Exciting options.
“Why don’t you write a blog post?” he said. Oh no! That hadn’t even entered my head. Should I be writing a blog post? Or making my work to-do list for the week ahead?
I stood in the middle of the kitchen, looking at the clock, trying to figure out what to do. Work or housework? Tick tock. I stood, procrastinating, achieving less than nothing. Even sitting back down to Facebook would surely be more satisfying than this.
“I better go get them,” my husband said. Time’s up. A wasted opportunity.
I trudged up the stairs to change the bed linen anyway, my enthusiasm right down at too-little-too-late levels.
And it’s not new. Unscheduled free time comes around so infrequently, I’m always torn about how best to use it. Focus on one task or divide and conquer? Half do lots of things and risk achieving nothing? Stand staring at the clock and do nothing constructive at all? Tick tick tick.
My husband arrived back, yet again without kids. “They’re staying another ten or fifteen minutes,” he said.
This time there was no procrastination. I grabbed my book and ran to the garden. Bed linen could wait. Facebook could wait. But ten minutes of uninterrupted reading? Priceless. If anyone wants to borrow my kids for an hour, I know exactly how I’ll spend it the next time.
Speaking of bed linen and housework (we were!), one of the things I feared most about working from home was being sucked into spending hours cleaning. But I’ve realised that the less time you allocate to it, the more you get done. And lowering standards helps too. It’s all true – the experts agree. I wrote about it here for the Irish Examiner: Keep it nice and tidy