I've just finished a 7-day online holiday, where I did not do any online pootling (that's my catch-all word for the myriad of non-life-administration stuff I do online ... writing & reading blogs, Twitter, Digg, YouTube, news and analysis sites, occasional online games and puzzles).
I wasn't off the grid completely. I checked email daily, including my Gmail; I checked the weather forecast and Googled some factual information for my daughter's school project; I did my online banking and I registered both the big kids for this year's MS Readathon; and I placed two online orders (one for books with Booktopia, one for art supplies with Carnival Club). But all the things I did online were basically compulsory - by which I mean they had to get done one way or another, and the Internet was actually the fastest way to do it. Given that I've been working on a couple of biggish volunteer things that are coming to a head in the next fortnight, email was also a necessity, as that's the primary method of information exchange in that arena.
No pootling did mean a change to the disposition of what I laughingly refer to as my discretionary time. Even in a normal week, I don't usually expend more than one or two long blocks of time online (where long blocks = 2 hours or more). I do, however, often spend 30 or 45 minutes during the toddler's nap on the pootle (often, indeed usually, Tweeting and reading blogs); I also have tended to slump in an exhausted puddle at the computer for 20 minutes before dinner, and had developed a very bad habit of jumping on the computer at 7pm while hubs got the kids washed & dressed for bed. (I say "bad habit" because, after a week of not doing it, I can see how disruptive it was for the whole family having me zoning out in that crucial half-hour. The pre-bed routine has been so much pleasanter and smoother this week with me not pootling at this time).
I have had both a busy and tiring week IRL in any case, with a lot of things on, hubs away for work two nights, and a cold-ridden, sleep-interrupted, toddler. So even if I wasn't on an online holiday, I doubt I would have got any long blocks of online time this week. But knocking out even the shorter snatches freed up more time and headspace than I had anticipated. Instead of pootling, I:
- finished everything for the launch event that I am organising for our school's new building (as part of my school council role);
- sorted out a range of tiresome small niggling things that I had never seemed to get around to (eg. sorting through my wallet & handbags, and updating my birthday book)
- read 3 novels, which is at least one more than I would have read in a busy week normally;
- sorted through one of the junk depositories in my house (there are *plenty* left, sadly) and disposed of redundant stuff;
- started sketching out the sequel book to the middle-grade detective novel I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo.
I'm not counting things like housework, laundry, kid-transporting, cooking, regular activities, and play / fun time with the kids, because those things tend not to get missed in any week (ie they are not sacrificed to pootling time ;-)
What I realised is that what I've effectively been doing, subconsciously, is to designate pootling as my go-to second-tier activity after all my A list stuff (quality time with kids, house, laundry, cooking, logistics, activities, volunteer obligations) is done. This is all very well and good, but it does mean that lots of other second-tier activities - tidying / decluttering, meta administration, gardening, reading, even TV - are never even in the same postcode as my week. I also realised that pootling definitely has a time and a place, and 7pm is not it if I want the evening to run smoothly.
That said, I did miss aspects of my online existence, and I didn't consider extending my holiday. I enjoy writing my own blogs and reading those on my blogroll - I find them interesting, relevant and in the case of my own, a release and a creative output. I like chattering on Twitter, especially if I'm having a rough day with little adult interaction in it. I like reading things that make me think and challenge me, and some of the sites I visit do that all the time.
But overall, I think that the holiday did me good, and I found it relaxing and enlightening. Now that I'm back, husband and I have made a joint commitment to not have our computers on between dinnertime (5:30) and the older girls' bedtime (8pm), and I think that'll be a good thing all round. Midday pootling, while toddler naps (such as the 45 minutes that produced this post ;-) is definitely green for go again though!