"The Pomodoro Technique shouldn’t be used for activities you do in your free time. In fact, applying the Pomodoro would make these activities scheduled and goal-oriented. That’s no longer free time."
Some months ago, I was reading an article somewhere (maybe in Time magazine?) about what is often called (by women- and family-studies type people) the "second shift." In this context, second shift is the shift that you start after you get home from work. It is housework, cooking, taking care of the kids. Traditionally, most of second shift was done by women, but things have changed so that more men are taking second shift responsibilities. The article claimed that there were studies showing that men and women were spending equal amounts of time on second shift work and had equal amounts of free time, but this was not leading to women having less stress and responsibility. This was due to how men and women were handling their free time. During their free time, men spent their free time on things that had nothing to do with the home and kids. In contrast, women were spending their free time on: planning birthday parties, making things for the kids, reading to the kids, making stuff for the house, decorating the house, shopping for the family, etc. These things were all related to the home, but women were calling it "free time" and not counting it as second shift work. And if they weren't actively doing something for the family, they were talking about the family, keeping in touch with relatives, and, in general, thinking about family stuff.
I've been thinking about free time a lot lately, how much of it I have, and what I do with it. I've come to the conclusion that I have fallen into the same trap as the women in the Time article--my free time is not really free. If I'm knitting, it's a gift for someone's birthday or for Christmas. If I'm sewing, it's for Cate or some occasion or something for the apartment or somebody's gift or because I think sewing is likely one of the best ways to have nice clothes that fit me properly and so it is a skill I need to learn to help with one of life's basic necessities. Lately, the only reading I've been doing is listening to audio books while I knit or sew. In other words, there is precious little I do just for the hell of it, because I enjoy doing it.
Many of the things I do in my so-called free time are things that I enjoy, such as knitting and sewing, but I am not doing those things to relax, I'm doing them because I need the end product for my family. Consequently, I'm not actually enjoying the things that I supposedly do for enjoyment. There is a level of stress associated with my knitting and sewing because the things I am crafting are needed for some purpose other than for me to meditate and relax.
Of course, knitting and sewing inherently have an end-product associated with them, an end-product that is often useful in some fashion. It's one of the reasons I love to craft, to make something with my hands, to create something that is lasting. However, it's easy, then, to slip into making things only because you need them and not for enjoyment. It's easy to turn your hobby into work and to trick yourself into thinking you are spending time relaxing when in reality what you're doing does not give you any relaxation or enjoyment.
They say that all work and no play makes you dull. I always heard that line and thought dull = boring and maybe that's what was meant. But dull is also the opposite of sharp and I think it's also valid to say that all work and no play makes you less sharp. Free time is needed to cultivate creativity and creativity keeps you sharp.
The upshot of all of this navel-gazing is that I think I need to re-think my sewing and knitting queues. On several of the sewing blogs I read (blog-reading, btw, is one of the few thing I do for pure enjoyment), I've seen people talk about needing to make more "cake" instead of "frosting." I wish I could relate. I think I may be making a lot of spinach. Or possibly sugar-free, fat-free cookies. Cake might actually be a step up in creativity and fun. I think my goal for the upcoming year is going to be to have more cake and less veggies. To start, I'm going to make a list of things I want to make for myself. No gifts, no stuff for Cate, just stuff for me, me, me. I'm going to actually use some of the patterns and material I bought and have been saving to make things for me in order to actually make things for me. I'm going to use some of the beautiful sock yarn I've bought in the last few years and make myself some socks. And, not on a deadline. Not because I need a new skirt because I have no clothes that fit. Just because.
Perhaps that should be my new crafting motto: Just because!