Most of us associate confetti with some sort of celebration like a parade or wedding. However, Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, uses the term ‘time confetti’ to describe all the small scraps of free time she experienced in a day. Most of us can identify with this. Rather than having clearly distinguishable periods of free time, we tend to use free time like confetti. Five minutes here, ten minutes there and, more often than not, we even spend those precious little moments glued to the screen of a phone, tablet, or laptop. No wonder we end up feeling overwhelmed, overstimulated, and fragmented. The long blocks of free time that we used to enjoy a couple of years ago are now constantly interrupted. Multitasking and mobile technologies can be a lethal combination with regard to our well-being, if we are not careful.
A tell-tale sign that we are using confetti time is our inability to be fully present and enjoy the moment. Often a dinner, a birthday party, a vacation, a movie, playing golf, or whatever we do to relax becomes just another piece of confetti in our otherwise crazy world of busyness. We are not fully present, let alone enjoying these moments, because in the back of our mind there are other duties calling for our attention. Instead of having meaningful time off with friends and family, an alert that we receive from work creates guilt and dread over what we’re not getting done. Mothers often feel torn, trying to be a committed parent and a good employee at the same time. Thinking about work while trying to relax induces panic and anxiety, and sadly, that robs us of certain never-to-be-repeated special moments, all because we settled for confetti time.
We need to become more deliberate in creating and valuing our free time. We need to recognize and overcome the time traps in our lives, and we need to intentionally carve out happier and more meaningful moments each day. The old excuse of not having time to relax is not true. The truth is that it is not a priority, and if it is not a priority, then confetti time is what we settle for to the detriment of our own well-being.
So how do we change that?
It will take some effort, much like trying to get fit. It calls for discipline and small, deliberate steps. We need to consciously build free time into our day, and to hold ourselves to it. No more confetti time. No more five minutes here and ten minutes there. No more guilt and anxiety around these moments. Free time is our gift to ourselves. Let us claim it.
“Either you run the day, or the day runs you.”