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Mental Health Personal Growth

The Value in Empty Time

Quoted On empty time and not feeling crammed by Madeleine Dore (Extraordinary Routines )

Detecting my own restlessness the last few weeks, I’ve tried to pay attention to this theme of empty time. It seems to keep returning, in conversations for this podcast, in books I’m reading, in conversations with friends.

Yutori means having the time and space—and even the resources—to do, with a sense of ease, whatever it is you’d like to do. Plus a bit. That’s the important part: plus a bit.

Yutori isn’t exactly empty time, but it’s enough playroom, enough elbow-room to be who we’d like to be.

— Madeleine Dore

I’ve been really busy at work the last few weeks, and have no time for buffer space, for breathing. Other colleagues I’ve met seem to be like this all the time, running at 110% capacity, no time to do anything that’s not already on their work plan. That’s not how I like to work. I like to have space for kismet, for opportunities to partner with others, for new ideas, for reflection and assessment, for coordination with colleagues that may not yield anything for me but helps them.

I think of the idea I heard about eating to only 90% fullness. That extra 10% of flex space yields the most interesting and enjoyable parts of my job.

I feel this, too, in my personal creative life. I have more projects than I could ever hope to finish, but also don’t have enough time or energy to finish those I am working on. Some more opportunity for picking priorities, and being satisfied with less.

I always forget how important the empty days are, how important it may be sometimes not to expect to produce anything, even a few lines in a journal. … the most valuable thing we can do for the psyche, occasionally, is to let it rest, wander, live in the changing light of a room, not try to be or do anything, whatsoever.

— May Sarton

Brings me back to this question from Jocelyn K. Glei I’ve been working on for the past two years: who are you without the doing?

These spare, empty minutes in between the doing of our days can be where we find ourselves.
— Madeleine Dore

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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