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How could I ever have not enough to do?

Having recently completed the first major project for A Little Research, now going through the busiest time of year for my academic position, and about to discuss my next major project, I sometimes wonder how a mission to work shorter hours came to this. I also wonder why anyone would worry that not having paid work would leave them without enough to do.

I always expected that the number of hours I worked in any given week would vary, and right now I’m at one of the higher points (even though I still don’t work as many hours as I did in my last full-time job). In a month or two I hope to have more spare time again, so that I can go on holidays and catch up on some projects I’ve put aside while occupied with seemingly-endless enquiries from students. But a busy period like this does make me consider my motivations.

Despite being busy, and having no obvious use for more money, I still browse job advertisements, I’m still considering how I might advertise A Little Research, and I’ve still volunteered to take on projects both in my academic position and for the Society for Creative Anachronism. Part of this (especially the job browsing) is just keeping tabs on what might be happening in the world; part is wanting to feel that A Little Research is achieving something; part of it is seeing a job that needs to be done; and part of it is enthusiasm to be involved in exciting-sounding projects.

Yet I don’t want to commit a full working week to any of these projects, at least not for a period of more than a month or so. For one it’d mean not having time for any of the other projects. And I know from past experience that spending a whole year on the same programming project, or teaching the same topic for semesters on end, leaves me feeling like I’m not developing myself. Doing nothing at all would be even less satisfying and achieve even less development.

Perhaps other people exist who have no interest in being involved in anything or in developing themselves. Perhaps I don’t meet them because they don’t get out very much, I’m too busy with my own projects to notice, and/or I tend to hang around the kinds of places (universities and hobby groups) that attract people looking for something to do. Or perhaps such people are just a figment of the imaginations of people who fancy themselves more industrious than everyone else.

Whatever the intrinsic motivations of me or anyone else, I’m sure the environment matters as well: I’m in an environment where I often see calls for project proposals or invitations to apply for positions and finding things to fill my days might be harder if I never saw such prompts. In fact being unsure on how to use my excess wealth might be one manifestation of the latter situation. For now, however, the prospect of having nothing to do is very far away.

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