Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Work: Useless time sucks for wasted days

In the January issue of Real Simple magazine, there was an extensive list of "mini chores" that the editors suggested you could use to occupy a spare five minutes for "that juicy accomplishment buzz."  These tasks included things like tossing three old items from your fridge, dusting your houseplants, and creating an emergency kit with bottled water, flashlight and canned goods.

With all of the snow days we've had lately, I've had enough free time to alphabetize the contents of the refrigerator and grow houseplants from seed. However, the fact that I still own a magazine that I bought out of desperation a month ago for a flight that I didn't actually get to take, suggests that I'm not mini chore-oriented (especially since one item on the list instructs the reader to eliminate half of her magazine stack). 

You, on the other hand, may be the kind of hyper-efficient gal who spends her last free five minutes zipping around the house with a small can of white paint, making touch-ups as needed, per the list.  If so, you don't need Real Simple; you need to relax. Allow me to be of service with these useless time sucks, gleaned from my most recent snow day:

  • Make elaborate plans and execute them poorly.  You might, for example, promise your children that you'll make homemade playdoh, though you actually have no expertise in this area.  Use an untested recipe from the Internet, so as to avoid success in your endeavor.  Attempt to salvage the sticky mess that results by baking their haphazard creations into a hot blobby mess.  Voila! You've created both a mess and more clutter.

  • Plan an unfeasible escape.  If you are like me, your vacation budget is minimal at best.  This should not stop you from shopping airfares to Bali.  Do exhaustive research: plan outings, compare villas, deliberate over whether you should rent a car or just hire a driver.  Most importantly, convince yourself that you not only deserve this trip, you practically require it.  Consider it a medical necessity, as you are clearly vitamin D deficient. Have faith that your sense of entitlement alone will pay the bill.

  • Build resentments.  I find that winter in New England is the perfect setting for this, but I suppose it could work elsewhere.  My method: find someone from a climate less punishing than your own (if you're in my neck of the woods, this includes pretty much everyone but the Inuits), notice how much happier/healthier/all-around better he or she looks than you.  Look at your own see-through-living-under-a-log skin and squishy middle.  Think about how much easier it would be to look as good as Mr./Ms. Rosy Glow if you had access to some decent produce or had been able to leave the house in the past couple of months.  Direct your anger at him or her.  (Helpful hint: You could do this with a copy of People, but I like to personalize it by fixating on the Facebook friend who keeps posting radiant shots of her healthy active life in Florida.  Like I don't know that she has totally capped her teeth since high school...cheater.)

  • Compile a list of grievances.  The resentments that you've constructed in the previous exercise are a great segue here.  The fact that my only outdoor activity is digging a dog latrine in snow higher than my knees while others are providing photographic evidence of frolicking in shorts --that makes the list. You should also think about any naggingly incomplete home repairs, recent failures or disappointments, mistreatment at the hands of co-workers and/or service staff... Make sure you don't leave anything out.  You want an accurate catalogue of the bleakness that is your life.

  • Ponder your failures.  Here's an example: After grimly digging a giant dog toilet in the backyard, I make hot chocolate for the girls.  Little E dissolves in sobs and recriminations, because, apparently, she doesn't care for the mug I've chosen.  Big E repeatedly points out to me that Little E has just said "hate," which, in case I have forgotten, she is not to say.  Clearly, as their mother, I am responsible for these foibles in my offspring.  I think about all the ways that I've failed them and try to decide which of these spawned these particular behaviors.  To kill some more time, I fret about how these little quirks will present themselves in adulthood.

  • Lament your wasted time. There's little sense in frittering away a day if you're not going to spend some time mentally berating yourself for your lack of productivity.  Think of all of the things you could have accomplished with this time.  Look around at the mess in your house, but don't pick it up.  Instead, spend the remaining time asking yourself why you are so profoundly lazy, resenting those responsible for the mess or anyone else who has failed to address it, and amending your anguish over the enormous pigsty that your home has become to your list of grievances. 
If, when you've completed these steps, you find that you still have some time on your hands, get online and consult the long-term forecast to see when you can expect the next wasted snow day.  If you're anywhere near me, it shouldn't be a long wait. So maybe you should get on that emergency kit.

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