When you have unstructured time, do you find yourself thinking about your long to-do list but just doing something mindless instead? Your mind has taken over because it needs unstructured time and since we are always behind we don’t ever give it this luxury.
I disagree just a bit with the dictionary on the definition of puttering, or maybe it is a matter of semantics on the use of ineffective and unproductive in the description. Puttering can be aimless and random, leisurely and casual – but can be highly consequential. We don’t do enough of it in my opinion and seem to swing from overly-booked to entirely mindless as a result.
My dad had sets of old once-white t-shirts and worn jeans (or shorts in the summer) that came out on the weekends when the suits were set aside. These clothes signaled a day spent puttering; he would be found in the backyard, his workshop, the garage, or the shed if not taking a trip to the hardware store. Now some of the work, like mowing the lawn was planned and therefore not puttering, but most of what he did falls in the puttering category.
Meanwhile mom could be found doing her own version of puttering in the house, stationed in the corner of the sofa with a stack of reading material, a cup of coffee and a notebook and pen. Mom’s puttering was about culling information and repurposing it for her needs; exploring ideas that might come back out years later as part of a project.
I started to think of all of this while doing the dishes (yes, I do them by hand – mindless puttering gives me time to ruminate) and wishing that someone who likes to fix little things around the house would adopt my house as a cause and come putter here once a month or so. Puttering about the house sorting, straightening, culling keeps me from having to plan a big chunk of time to keep things in order. Puttering in the garden idly plucking weeds out of the mulch (love mulch, gardening is enjoyable with mulch) keeps me from having to spend hours weeding.
So puttering is ineffective? I don’t think so. When my brain is tired, I can still sit with a pad and pen and jot down the stuff I will do later when I have energy, as it wanders into my head – aimless, but effective. What do you think?
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