manufacturing moments

Published on March 21, 2020

Planning ahead for the weekend is a task I enjoy doing. The weekend is two days where I have no work obligations, and where I allow myself to break out of my traditional routines. The weekends are my time to try new things, and do everything I could not do while working.

This year, I have made an effort of planning out my weekends during the week. I have thought deliberately about what I wanted to do at the weekend, and written it down in my to-do list so that I don’t forget. As a result, I have found that I have been able to do a lot of what I love during the weekends.

Yet there is still some part of me that feels like my planning is unnecessary, like planning for the weekends is not the best use of my time. Looking back on this weekend, for example, I have realized that everything I intended to do so far has not come to fruition. Spontaneity resulted in my doing things I never thought I would be doing today.

In my broader life, I have found that I am guilty of trying to manufacture moments. I became aware of this fact recently after considering how much time I spend planning my weekends, which is an activity I take into other aspects of my life. I plan out my evenings. I plan out my routines. Everything (aside from my career) seems to be planned in some way.

This degree of planning takes away the serendipitous part of life that we all need to embrace. When everything is planned, you end up missing the essence of each moment, and you enter a mindset where if something is not going the way you intended, you feel as though you are not doing what you should be.

So, earlier today, I decided to completely let go of my expectations for the day. I wanted to read the rest of Founders At Work, listen to an episode of a podcast I enjoy, write a blog post, and work on a few side projects. Instead, so far, I went out on a walk to get some food, and I have spent some time with my family.

What I have done so far today is nothing like what I planned to do, but that doesn’t mean I have not enjoyed every moment. I was able to eat my dinner with my family, and enjoy watching them as they read through the morning papers. I was able to go out on a walk and embrace nature, and take pleasure in just watching the world go by. These moments couldn’t have been planned; they happened because I just let the world go on.

Manufacturing moments is easy to do in theory, but difficult to do in practice. This makes it a very counterproductive activity. Sure, you may want to have your morning a certain way, but if you let your routines get in the way of embracing the morning you have been given, then it becomes more difficult to just live your life.

This morning could have gone two ways. I could have either given into the fact that new opportunities came up and I could have followed those (like I did), or I could have spent my time doing what I had planned, and missed out on those opportunities. I think that if I had stuck with my plan I would have regretted it.

In addition, I have found that trying to manufacture moments encourages us to develop a narrower view of what it means to live a good life. If we try to manufacture our weekends, for example, we feel as though we have failed if we did not do everything we set out to do. If we try to manufacture our breakfast time, any time something goes differently -- which, inevitably, it will -- we will feel like something is missing.

My new philosophy on life is to embrace the moments that I am given, as opposed to trying to force the world to give me the moments I want to embrace.

Every weekend, I will likely still make a list of things I want to do. However, instead of letting that list become a schedule, I will see it as a guide. The things on my to-do list for the weekend are options, rather than tasks I need to accomplish. I could read after I write this blog post. Or I could listen to a podcast. Or I could code. It’s up to me.

When you stop trying to manufacture moments, you realize that there is no need to plan every detail of your day in advance. The world will keep going on, even if you haven’t planned everything out. I have allowed myself to just live in the moment today, and I have had many experiences I would not otherwise have had. I spoke to a few people with whom I may not have spoken otherwise. I went out for a walk.

If I see myself trying to plan out a moment, I want to stop and ask myself: is this a good use of my time? What are the chances this moment ever comes to fruition? What makes this moment I am planning better than the alternative, which is to embrace serendipity? Then, I want to let go of my expectations and allow myself to see what is coming without a plan in advance.

Life is filled with wonderful moments, and many of the best ones are those for which we cannot plan. Don’t manufacture moments; let moments be crafted as you go throughout your day.

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