Scheduling Spontaneity

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Scheduling spontaneity. It sounds counterintuitive.

But, the deeper you get into life, the more you’ve got going on, the more you need to schedule time to not have anything scheduled.

Ritual is important. So it routine. They help create certainty anchors in your day, moments where you know what’s coming next and you can get into a rhythm that allows creativity and productivity to flow.

But, without fail, the biggest ideas, the most endearing connections, the world-changing insights come not when you’re engaged in the process of trying to make them happen, but when you step away and give your mind a bit of space. When you let your brain breath.

That’s when data coalesces into genius. Conversations blossom into love. And the playful side of life swirls through you.

The busier you get, the more important it is for you to exalt and even schedule time to be unscheduled. To pause.

As John Lennon once shared –

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

Schedule spontaneity and plan to live.

What do you think?


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51 responses

51 responses to “Scheduling Spontaneity”

  1. Erin says:

    Great reminder. Thanks, Jonathan!

  2. Mike Sansone says:

    Yes:-) One of the reasons I wake up early, do what I like least first, and wonder around rather than wander around is in a way “scheduling spontaneity” – a cousin to “luck is the residue of design”, yes?

    Dial up your own serendipity.

  3. Hello Jonathan,

    The most beautiful moments for me have been the ones that have been spontaneous and not planned. I love to travel with no plans – go as I wish for those were the times of my greatest joys!

    Meeting new and interesting people along the way – with no plan or agenda….

    In gratitude,

  4. Hi Jonathan,
    Love that you make me stop and take a breathe. Creating a business from scratch has been all consuming lately and stopping to just “do nothing” is so important to keeping the spark alive.

    I am loving Uncertainty!

    Thanks so much.

  5. “Work” is what we spin our wheels doing, to achieve competency and mastery of our craft.

    But “work” does not bring innovation. That happens in the shower, during a jog, doing the dishes. Only by removing ourselves from “work” can we get an outside perspective of it.

    I’ve been a big believer of this in the past, and somehow I forgot this week. I’ve had my head stuck in spinning my wheels all week, and I’ve been bereft of innovation.

    Thanks for this reminder, Jonathan. I’m going to go play.

  6. Cali Ressler says:

    Wholeheartedly agree. The mind needs to relax – just like other parts of our body. And when it does, awesome things happen.

    Funny (well, not so funny, but true) story –

    Employee says to manager “I get my best ideas while I’m swimming laps in the pool.”

    Manager: “You can’t count that as ‘work time’.”

    Employee: “But the work is happening in my head – we can’t shut our brains off. Ideas happen when they happen.”

    Manager: “No employee of mine will count swimming as work time.”

    Hmmmmm…seems to me like the employee is scheduling spontaneity just like you’re recommending, Jonathan, and it’s working. So the other piece to this is keep doing what works – even if others might disagree 🙂

  7. Kristina says:

    Agreed! Very timely, considering I scheduled playtime/downtime this weekend before the holiday madness ensues. I’m looking forward to sleeping in (i can’t remember the last time i did that) and seeing how the day shakes out.

    Have a great weekend with whatever you end up doing!

  8. Sam Horn says:

    Hey Jonathan:

    Thanks for this eloquent and insightful reminder.

    You’re right about the importance of carving out time to let our brain breathe.

    I just had the privilege of dining (with a group of top entrepreneurs from around the world) at Lincoln’s Cottage in Wash DC.

    This is where President Abraham Lincoln rode his horse to get away from it all.

    As you walk through the sparsely-furnished cottage (most rooms only have one table, 2 chairs and one thing on the wall); the visceral impression is . . . space to think, space to think.

    Lincoln purposely kept these rooms clear of clutter and visual noise so he could center himself in his vision for the future and write the Emancipation Proclamation which has endured for decades and impacted millions.

    Your blog post is a welcome reminder that if we want to center ourselves in our future and create work that has enduring value; we too must give ourselves space to think.

    Thank you.

    Sam Horn, The Intrigue Expert

  9. Breathing room for your brain. I love that!

    I am in a cycle of freelancer feast … which means my brain hasn’t had much breathing room lately. BUT – I think the idea of scheduling time to invite spontaneity is a fabulous idea. It may not always work, but if you at least give yourself the opportunity, there’s no telling what might happen.

    I’m putting this on the calendar for next week!

  10. Anne says:

    I love to put the DO NOT SCHEDULE words over parts of my schedule. I am so tight sometimes with my time and it’s been starting to feel like all I do is work or go to previously scheduled events. Thanks for the reminder to “unschedule” myself.


  11. Josh Pies says:

    As a producer and writer for film and video I HAVE to stay creative lest things become formulaic. In the last few weeks – due to a move to a wonderful new home, new puppy, and parenthood – I’ve noticed that I have not taken time to just BE. Great reminder and quite timely in my work life. Thanks man!

  12. Paula says:

    When I was in grad school, I noticed after couple trimesters that I always scheduled courses that I didn’t really need but looked interesting (because, you know, grad students need to take even more on). But what I ended up doing is skipping those lectures and workshops and hanging out somewhere, usually outdoors or in a cafe someplace doing nothing. It felt wonderful not having anyone know where I was – I had my own secret, inviolate time.

    Eventually I realized that I was actually just scheduling time to be with myself and because I couldn’t own up to that by telling others the truth, I scheduled something else and skipped it so I had an excuse, so I could at least pretend I was doing something “useful”. It’s still hard to schedule that time, but I’m trying.

  13. Patricia Katz, Life Balance Strategist says:

    I absolutely agree, Jonathon. This is my 25th year in business, and for many of those years, I’ve been a practitioner and advocate of the art of pause. I regularly start my day with time out (a little yoga, a walk along the river, a meditation on ‘my rock’. That investment in ‘me time’ leaves me so much more open to and tolerant of the demands of the rest of the world for the rest of the day. For a wealth of ideas and inspirations on pausing, you might want to check out:
    All the best, Patricia

  14. Allison says:

    A wise and, for me, timely suggestion. It reminds me of what I do in small ways that I can try to apply more broadly and boldly. When I have a “talk” to give or an interview to conduct I sometimes draw paw prints to remind me to “paws” a moment for processing time.

    Thanks again– you always inspire perspective on life.

  15. Saya says:

    I am so glad to hear many other people think this way.
    I like to have plans and schedule but the feeling of a list is controlling my life makes me anxious, specially kills my creativity. So I do have plans but the rhythm of it can change as I feel it. For example if I feel in the middle of my creative hours for painting i need to go for workout, I do.
    First I was so strict on myself because I thought I am covering my ADD or laziness. But when I compared the result of productivity and my happiness, I changed my mind.

  16. Sher, Visionary says:

    Good Day Jonathan and thanks for the nudge! My project had been on stall for a little more than one week. Reading your post today was a good reminder. What I can’t seem to create, grasp, visualize, etc., comes to me after I have stepped away from the project. I love those “aha” moments!


  17. Jeff Goins says:

    Much needed. Thanks, Jonathan.

  18. Aaron says:

    Thanks for this brief yet important post. Going to get some play in today…thanks!

  19. Google’s 20% time; FedEx days. Our brains are most active when we’re not necessarily asking them for something, and they’re most creative when we think we’re having fun.

    My life has, for years, left space for spontaneity. What I haven’t done is to plan for downtime. I’ve fought the good fight, treasuring my free time, keeping work from encroaching, but the work grows, I can’t keep winging it.

  20. Right on, Jonathan! Totally true. Here’s another slice of the same pie:

  21. sukhi says:

    I LOVE this! Life is so counter intuitive.

    If you want to lose weight, you actually have to eat more (of the right foods).
    If you want more energy, you need to expend more energy.
    If you want to receive more abundance, you have to give more.

    And so it should be, as life gets busier you must schedule more times of
    unscheduled-ness spontaneity.

  22. Denise says:

    What a joy to read this and the comments from others. The highest experiences of life have been the spontaneous ones for me as well. Thanks for the simple yet powerful reminder to be present to each day, not a demanding schedule.

  23. I love how outwardly paradoxical this seems. Exactly what I’ve been thinking about recently – thanks for the reminder to schedule in free time. As Mike S. put it, “dial up your own serendipity”.

  24. susan shannon says:

    Some of the best happenings in my life have ocurred when plans changed and I decided to be spontaneous and do something else instead. Leaving space in the day for the miracle of life to happen is awesome. Thanks, Jonathan!

  25. I think it is called miracle-readiness…allowing the serendipity in our lives. I make it a habit to schedule my moments of mindfulness, my family time, and my daily blisscipline. And as a general rule of thumb, I do not allow myself more than 5 projects at one time.

  26. Tammy says:

    Whenever I am trying to break out of a rut I plan spontaneity. I’ll write on a specific calendar day, “Be spontaneous”. When that pop up comes up, I see what is going on that day and do it. Sometimes I intentionally choose a “not me” activity just to test that boundary of what I do and don’t like.

  27. Jenny Shih says:

    I completely agree. Intentionally creating time for our brain to rest is critical for allowing our creativity to reboot and spit out something new.

    I find that for myself and many other driven individuals, scheduling spontaneity (read: blank time) is difficult–it can bring up all sorts of fears. It can feel like nothing is being accomplished.

    One way I’ve overcome this is to (1) block out brain-break time on my calendar and (2) have a list of things to do for those brain breaks. For times when I am afraid to take a break, having a list of things “to do” helps. My list includes walking my dog, hiking in the nearby forest, cooking, and climbing at the local climbing gym.

    I trick the fearful part of myself into thinking I’m “doing” something. However, I know that these activities allow my brain to rest. Of course, some days I’m open to doing something not on my list, but it’s great to have the list so I can be sure to take time to rest my brain and reboot my creativity.

    The second trick I use is to allow myself to move around the pre-scheduled brain break times. If creativity is flowing and I’m in the flow of creating, I’m not going to stop because my calendar says “this is brain break time.” So I adapt in the moment and move my brain break time to another slot in my calendar.

    Overall, I think schedules and spontaneity are both required for creativity to flow, but neither needs to be rigidly followed. We all need to find our own way to flow with both schedules and spontaneity.

  28. Giovanna says:

    Been thinking A LOT about it later…
    Can even say that the ‘Uncertanty Book’ got all the thinking going…
    Don´t know if I agree with you yet… don´t know if I don´t either…

    but the thinking is productive, that´s for sure. and since I´m finally leaving my job to be full time on my own in 2 weeks… that´s a good moment for it to happen.
    tks for every

  29. gary says:

    Reading “Uncertainty”… ideas began “coming in” about 1/2 way through…just allowing it to happen…can’t force this it will happen wish this was available 20 years ago…

  30. Always make time for impromptu moments and spontaneity. My favourite thing is just doing a handstand when I feel like it no matter where I am, or a cartwheel.

    Small things count and leave you energized and other people are either amused or smiling – either way that works for me.

    Since I live out of a suitcase 90% of the time and have no fixed abode my life is one lovely long ride of spontaneity!

  31. This is why I meditate hourly Jonathan. When not thinking or doing, I am just being, and when just being, the best ideas pop up. No blocks, no ego-driven motives, I am simply supplied.

    Thanks for sharing!


  32. Alex says:

    I really enjoyed reading this post, it’s very true <3

  33. al slinkard says:

    Along a similar approach, if I have a major decision to make, I briefly review the problem mentally as I relax in bed at night (briefly, so as not to get my my brain worked up and end up tossing and turning all night). Overnight, my subconscious mind wrestles with the problem and I usually wake up refreshed with a good answer to the problem.

    NOTE:Everyone is different and what works for me may not work for someone else.

  34. Rob says:

    Well said!

    In my experience, I have found structure (and ritual) is vital for improved creative output – to get projects done.

    Yet I’ve proved to myself that the best ideas come at the most inopportune moments necessitating the need to carry an index card or Dictaphone ready to capture that moment of grand inspiration.

  35. Hi Jonathan,

    I have always travelled for business, often being away for several days every week (I am an IT and business process consultant).

    When we had kids my wife and I realised our sex life had diminished to nearly non-existent, something neither of is were prepared to live with. Until then we had always maintained that this was an activity that had to be spontaneous to work.

    But Jill decided that we needed to have PSS (Planned Spontaneous Sex) every Thursday (the night I usually flew home). Worked an absolute charm keeping our relationship sound during the most challenging of times (we both work for ourselves and have companies to run).

    Sometimes in life you have to plan spontaneity when circumstances make genuine spontaneity either impossible or extremely unlikely.

    I highly recommend it!


  36. Hi Jonathon,

    Thank you for this post! How brilliantly we feel when “the playful side of life swirls through [us]”.

    I believe that spontaneity is the creative fuel source, and so often we’re running on empty. And I agree that if we have any hope for our incessant actioning to develop into magical-accomplishments-of-extreme-magnitude, we must make the time to stretch outside of our daily routine.

    Scheduling free time is a great tip for the interminable scheduler, but I would also recommend taking it a (potentially uncomfortable) step further.

    What if, in the midst of a busy day, an unscheduled opportunity presents itself? We feel torn. “What a spectacular opportunity this is!”, one mind says. “But I’m SO busy”, the other mind counters. What to do, what to do?

    If what I’m doing is of absolute-cannot-wait-another-minute import, I’ll say no. But if it can be postponed, I’ll say yes to the spontaneity of the offer and GO! Most times, the experience of leaving my appointed tasks will give me the perspective and space they needed to gel, and I glide back into my scheduled step refreshed, inspired, and ready.

    Make room for spontaneity, whether that means scheduling time for it, or relinquishing your death-grip hold on an overloaded day. Your creative mind will thank you for it.

    Ashley, The Miniskirt Ninja

  37. […] Creating time for spontaneity. If scheduling time for spontaneous activity seems like a crazy idea, just imagine what will happen if you don’t. Small business owners and entrepreneurs need time to be creative too. Where is that next great idea of yours coming from? Jonathan Fields […]

  38. […] Creating time for spontaneity. If scheduling time for spontaneous activity seems like a crazy idea, just imagine what will happen if you don’t. Small business owners and entrepreneurs need time to be creative too. Where is that next great idea of yours coming from? Jonathan Fields […]

  39. […] Creating time for spontaneity. If scheduling time for spontaneous activity seems like a crazy idea, just imagine what will happen if you don’t. Small business owners and entrepreneurs need time to be creative too. Where is that next great idea of yours coming from? Jonathan Fields […]

  40. […] Creating time for spontaneity. If scheduling time for spontaneous activity seems like a crazy idea, just imagine what will happen if you don’t. Small business owners and entrepreneurs need time to be creative too. Where is that next great idea of yours coming from? Jonathan Fields […]

  41. Since I am a Type A personality, I tend towards obsession when working on projects. Scheduling spontaneity into my routine allows for me to refill my creative stores, since I would work myself too hard, otherwise.

    Needed this reminder today, Jonathan.

    Here’s to a Happy Weekend!

  42. […] Creating time for spontaneity. If scheduling time for spontaneous activity seems like a crazy idea, just imagine what will happen if you don’t. Small business owners and entrepreneurs need time to be creative too. Where is that next great idea of yours coming from? Jonathan Fields […]

  43. […] “Scheduling Spontaneity,” Jonathan Fields: Good advice, but not an original line. Does anyone else remember this line by Daphne Zuniga in The Sure Thing? “Spontaneity has its time and place.” […]

  44. Ronnie says:

    Such an important reminder. Loved the piece and wrote about it here:

  45. Hey Jonathan – really important piece here, thanks. Just as we have to crouch before we jump, we have to allow ourselves downtime, time to be contracted. Easy to forget there is a normal ebb and flow to life, business, art, etc.

    All the entrepreneurs I know and work with don’t have a problem working hard – the hard part is to allow the recovery time. Breathe in, breathe out.
    cheers brother,

  46. John Sherry says:

    On the money Jonathan. We need to create space (pure, clear, and fresh from white noise) to allow inspiration a chance to spark and ignite. The mind is limited but creativity knows no bounds if we unbind ourselves from our normal complex thinking, doing, and solving processes. Interactive is really interacting with our own subtler senses.

  47. Being mindful in what we do is essential to becoming a better person. Life is all about the unknown. We must learn to be happy while surfing the wave!

  48. Clare Norman says:

    I’ve been hearing a lot recently about people taking sabbaticals, which is a bit like scheduled spontaneity I guess. Although, when I asked around, some people said they would need to have something meaningful, an outcome to achieve in that time. I think I’d say the same if it were a long sabbatical. But thinking about scheduled spontaneity as a sabbatical works perfectly. I’m trying to use this week as a bit of a sabbatical, for example, a time to catch up on reading and thinking, as well as some training. All in service of creativity.

  49. […] To see the full post on Jonathan’s site, click here. […]

  50. […] more you’ve got going on, the more you need to schedule time to not have anything scheduled. · Go to Sched­uling spontaneity → Published on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 · Permalink Topics: planning, rituals, […]