Secret of Adulthood: Schedule Time to Be Unscheduled.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:


For me, if something isn’t on my schedule, it doesn’t happen. Which is why I have some slightly ridiculous items on my schedule: to kiss my husband every morning and every night; t0 force myself to wander; and something I talk about in Before and After (my forthcoming book on habit-formation), Power Hour.

In fact, the Strategy of Scheduling is one of the most popular and effective strategies of habit-formation. If we put an activity on the calendar, we’re much more likely to do, and in this way, make it into a habit. Even if the activity on your schedule is to make some time…to be unscheduled.

Do you schedule time to be unscheduled? Or do you think that sounds nuts?

NOTE THE NEW FEATURE: I’ve added a Pin It button to the top of the post, so you can easily pin to Pinterest (I’m there myself.)

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  • Sarah Kerner

    I think the Pin It button goes to Pinterest, not IG… right?

    • gretchenrubin

      Of course! What a mistake. Fixed!

      Thanks for pointing it out —

  • Penelope Schmitt

    Hmmm, my son just gave me a jolt when he said that I was too attached to ‘my little routines.’ I fought back, but I do have something to think about here. I think that unscheduled time might be where you would start to live ‘the bigger life’ — I have been, and mean to continue to be, very focused on habits and routines that support me being or becoming the way I want to be. But I have to consider that my life may be getting a little ‘small’ as well. Sigh. It’s always something!

  • Karen Kuchel

    I always try to schedule unscheduled time, usually a whole day of it on the weekend if possible, and little interludes during the week. For one, it gives me breathing space if something goes wrong and my schedule doesn’t work out perfectly. Even more importantly, though, it gives me daydreaming time to recharge my batteries and allow myself to be more receptive to what’s around me. Scheduling it means I don’t then schedule something else in its place – it’s too important to surrender.

  • Lynn

    Absolutely! With work and family there are so many routines that need to be kept in place to keep life together that I can start to feel boxed in. I find that we all feel like few hours or a whole day with no agenda is a luxury! Honestly, if we don’t plan that time into our schedule it wouldn’t happen because there is always so much we should be doing. We actually prepare for it – we pick a Sunday to be our ‘No Agenda Day’. Then the Saturday before we clean the house and make sure we have plenty of food/left overs ready.

  • youonlylawonce

    Totally!! It is good to sit without agenda. It rejuvenates me for the work that comes ahead and recovers me from the work that I did. As an introvert social interactions also tire me out, so I try to make time for me to be by myself and no one/nothing else in order to regain my energy.

  • Lynn

    My theme for this year is ‘spontaneity’ and I found that I need to schedule time to be spontaneous. It may sound ridiculous, but at least it makes me laugh! I have my first spontaneous day coming up next week and I’m finding it difficult to not plan anything ahead of time. My goal is to wake up and see where the day takes me. I’ve never done this before, and it should be fun!

  • Caroline Donahue

    I agree with everyone here. I share your habit of putting things on the calendar to make sure that they happen, Gretchen. But I have learned that if I schedule every spare minute and don’t leave any unstructured time, particularly unstructured time alone, I am a mess. So I make certain (most of the time) that I have at least one scheduled unstructured evening or day a week, ideally two slots- an evening and half a day. As an introvert, I am unhappy without these slots to recharge, putter, read, and rest.

  • Stephanie Turner

    I had friends in grad school, a married couple, who successfully followed a diet and health plan. They made a list of things to do (drink 8 glasses of water, etc.) and checked them off every day. One of the items was “Choice”: they had to do something they WANTED to do, in order not to feel so constrained by the regimen. I think the wife was a Rebel, or at least a Questioner, but very self-disciplined (she has horses, which means getting up and feeding early EVERY day, no matter the weather).

  • jl

    I’ve just started adding one unscheduled day per month this year. I look forward to them very much!. The day before, I wonder what I might do – spontaneously have lunch with a friend, walk the dog somewhere new, stay in my pj’s until 11 am… They have reminded me that I have not always lived my live so scheduled!

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