(I wrote this shortly after coming back from my holidays in July. Not sure why I didn’t decide to post it, probably post-holiday blues).

Back from holidays and I’m only a few days in work and it feels like an age.

So Sunday night (which is actually a few weeks back now), last day before going back to work, the bedtime routine with my daughter went like this:

My daughter was in bed, reading her book and I came up to say lights out, have to get up in the morning, first day back. She refused to, nearly finished the chapter Daddy. Okay, I gave her a few more minutes.

Come back up later, she’s still not finished (part of me begins to thinks she’s gone onto the next chapter, but I know that’s not fair), she still needs to get up early tomorrow, so I insist. She get’s upset quickly, a sure sign she’s tired. But all calmed and lights out.

She wants a song. It’s already a hour after both kids originally went to bed. Soon it’ll be my bedtime, because I have to get up before her. But I consent. Big hug and kiss.

Now I can relax, too tired now to do anything productive. But no, my daughter wants her bed setup the way she likes. Seriously? I look at the time. Remind her again, it’s late. But I agree, gritting my teeth and set her up.

Such a contrast to the routine on holidays and already a build up of stress.

We go for three weeks every year. Enough to cover travel and still have a solid two weeks of, well, doing next-to-nothing in the French country side. I still brought my laptop with me, but there was no internet connection.

About a week into the holiday, my phone died. Just stopped working. It was only then we realised that my phone had been our common clock. We were using it to decided to start making lunch or dinner, or when to get up with the kids. I was using it to watch the time and everyone else was referring to me for the time. But without it, and no watch, we were and everyone else was suddenly timeless. (Not truly timeless, of course. There were clocks, but you had to go find them, strangely no-one wears a wrist-watch any more).

Not that it was a big shock. Early on in the holidays, us adults were already sleeping in on the mornings. The kids are old enough to be able get up themselves. And I (or someone else) would get up, roughly around 10am, and get them dressed, feed and chuck them outside (if it wasn’t raining). 10am was just a natural point though. Normally it was the call of either my bladder or my stomach that got me out of bed at 10am, not an alarm clock. And so we were already working near-timeless before my phone died.

But now we had lunch when we all started to feel hungry or started planning dinner when it was evening and the kids were hungry. We’d still aim to put the kids to bed at the same time, but if they weren’t tired or they wanted to do something, we’d let them stay up a bit and when finished they went to bed and fell asleep quickly. No struggles or hassles.

And we the adults, we play games and go to bed when we started to feel tired.

And this enabled me to write. There is no writer’s block when there is no worry about time. You write till you don’t want to write or something demands your attention like the kids or hunger. You know you have more time later. I thought I’d just become lazy and just do nothing when I have too much time, that I need structure. Apparently not. I drew when I felt like it too. (I didn’t attempt to do any projects with my drawing, but that was a conscious decision I made before the holidays.)

I spent good time with the kids, with my wife and got fully rested. I actually spent time day-dreaming on purpose, something I would feel guilty about when not on holidays.

But once we had to hook back into timetables and deadlines, stress suddenly returns. And time becomes precious. Getting the kids to bed becomes pressured, because there are deadlines. Specific times they have to get up. Things that need to get sorted.

Time or the perception of the passing of time seems to be for me the source of most daily pressures and it sometimes feels a bit arbitrary. Kids school opens at 8am. Why? Why 8am and not 10am? (I read that teenagers, for example, work better if they sleep in late). Why do we work 9 to 5, Monday to Friday? It’s purely convention, an agreed use of time. The idea of maximising productivity is the act of making as much use as possible out of the time you have.

Even writer’s block to me feels partly due to time… I have to write now, this is my window, but what I write is crap. I’m running out of time… I become paralysed unable to act, as if some imaginary clock is ticking down turning my procrastination into worry.

Real world example: “From daunting to doubting”. Here is a post I wrote about my big writing project, where I’m losing enthusiasm and energy for it. It was the pressure of time, the “result” taking too long for me to see.

Now contrast with this post I made after the holidays: “I’m back from outer space…”. I got loads done and I’m excited again.

Removing the constraints of limited time, at least for me, is a big aid to creativity.

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