There are many things I’d like to improve about myself, but one of the things I think I do well is time management. I manage my tasks well, with ample help from a complex to-do list. I almost always make deadlines, and my life isn’t crazy in the process. But I’ve come to realize that my tightly-managed schedule has a negative side effect: I almost never have unstructured time. Time when I don’t have anything in particular planned is rare, but it’s precisely that time when I’m most creative.

I rediscovered that unstructured time encourages creativity last night. We don’t have our nanny on Thursdays, making it a “mommy day.” I work at home until 3 pm when I go to pick up my daughter from school. It happens that she doesn’t have school this Friday so she didn’t have homework. She also spontaneously invited one of her classmates for a playdate, so I had more time in the afternoon to get things done. By the time the evening rolled around I had finished everything I needed to, and I had an hour or so for just relaxing. I turned on my iPod and just hung out. In the process I started thinking about the fact that I didn’t have a submission for the 2014 DePaul Teaching and Learning Conference and in 15 minutes had brainstormed an idea for it. I finished writing the submission this morning, helped by the fact that a submission is really just a long abstract. Without that hour of time with nothing to do I never would have created a submission for a conference I enjoy enormously.

Now I just have to figure out how to find more unstructured time. I’m not sure if scheduling unstructured time will have the same effect, especially if I have other things pressing on me. But I must find a way to do it.