I was looking at my calendar the other day. It’s really full. I’m totally okay with it being that way. After all, it’s my own fault. Last year I decided to ramp up on a few things – more teaching, more speaking gigs. We went full throttle on producing another season of our TV series. We took on new client projects. I got back into performing music, and took a bigger interest in fitness.

It’s no wonder there aren’t very many blank spots on my calendar.

At first I was a bit overwhelmed by the look of my calendar. My anxiety level rose as I realized that, for the next month, I had something on my calendar pretty well every single day. Not all work – but there was going to be something commanding my time and attention at some point, every single day. I felt exhausted just looking at it.

But then I noticed something.

In between all of those calendar entries was space. Sometimes an inch of space. Sometimes two. Sometimes, if I was lucky, there were 3 or 4 inches.

Inches of time.

These inches of time were empty. That meant they were mine, to do with as I please. Watch a movie. Call my Mom. Cook. Eat a meal with my husband. Sleep. Veg out.

Every day, I had things on my calendar that I had committed to do. But every day, I also had inches of time.

We live in a society where time is often dictated for us. We’re supposed to work 8 hours a day, have 8 hours a day to spend doing leisure activities, and sleep 8 hours a night. On the weekends we get 16 hours a day for leisure and 8 hours a night for sleep.

That model has never really worked for me. Usually it starts to fall apart at the sleep part. I try for 8 hours a night and succeed most nights. Sometimes I get 6. Other times I get 10 or 11, if my body decides it needs it.

I don’t work 8 hours a day. Sometimes I work 4. Sometimes 17. Rarely 8.

I enjoy the flexibility that my career choice affords me. I am not inclined to give it up. But along with that choice comes the knowledge that I will be putting in more hours at times than the prescribed 8 a day. And that sometimes I’ll get more sleep, and sometimes I’ll get less. And that sometimes I’ll have lots of time for family and friends, and other times I may not.

But I will always have inches of time.

Yesterday I had no inches. I jumped from one task to the next until I literally fell into bed at 10pm. Today, I have enough inches that I can sit here in this coffee shop and write some blog posts. I can sip my tea and look out the window. I can chat on the phone. Later, I have to work. But after that, I have another inch or two of time before I go to bed.

We are all so busy, so swamped, that we forget, that even as much as we have to do in a day, month, year, that we will always have those inches of time in our schedule.

How are you going to use your inches?

[photo credit: Johnny Boy on Flickr]