I wrote this article in March 2013 after visiting friends in San Francisco. Over lunch in Bangalore, I had a discussion with friends about the things they do in moments of free time. I remembered my idea of “steady state activities”, and wanted to share my reflections at the time.
Imagine that next week miraculously has 8 days in stead of 7. How will you spend your extra day?
In our free time we tend to default to a limited set of activities. When a day of work is cancelled we pick up a book, invite friends for dinner, or jam on our guitar. I call the set of activities we resort to in times of tranquility – our side projects, our hobbies – our steady state.
Why is it important to know our steady-state? Because our precious “free” moments are perfect opportunities to do things we love. If you are not conscious of your free time, it is easy to default to “urgent”, unimportant activities: answering email, glancing at newspaper headlines.
“We are here on Earth to fart around. Don’t let anybody tell you any different.”
– Kurt Vonnegut
Your steady state can bring you new perspectives. My friend and great designer Carson regularly visits museums, to study how human organizations have evolved in recent millennia. Maricarmen, entrepreneur and yoga teacher, finds herself dancing to powerful music in her mornings, to energize her body for studying and writing. Eric runs out of the building whenever he has moments to spare on his Kauffman trip, to capture the world from a different perspective through his camera, improving his skill as a photographer.
These are beautiful and constructive steady state activities. They bring joy and inspiration to my friends. They allow them to be more productive in their work. And, over time, these steady-state activities work like compound interest: by spending a bit of time every week, these side projects may one day form the basis of their next big thing.
What do you do on a free afternoon? Can you share an example of a skill you built up incrementally on the side over the years?