How to use free time well, and how people waste it
Free time is a gift. And just like a gift of money, we can squander it, invest it or create something meaningful with it.
Here’s some inspiration for how to best use your free time, whether the time was unexpected or circled on the calendar for months:
Relax Like You Mean It
We’re not talking couch and Netflix here; you can do that pretty much any weeknight. Instead, go on a trip to the day spa or drive somewhere you’ve never been for a day trip adventure.
Most of us have friends or siblings we just don’t talk to enough. Relationships can give us strength, so don’t hesitate to invest free time into them.
Research shows that nature can restore our capacity to pay attention. Besides, life seems more interesting when you see something beautiful.
Watch an Inspiring Movie
Free time should rejuvenate us. An inspiring movie that helps us feel emotion or helps us learn something can do wonders to kick our minds into a healthy gear, making us more prepared for the challenges ahead.
This might sound lame on the surface, but using free time to get organized can provide more free time in the future. A more productive you is a happier you, and organization can be essential to productivity.
Try the Arts
Many of our jobs are one-sided. They involve a few important skills while hardly touching the ocean of other talents and abilities we may or may not have. For example, your job may require math skills, reasoning skills, arguing skills, creativity or physical exertion, but probably not all of these. Think of an activity that is the opposite of what you do every day.
Cook a More Complicated Recipe
Many of us have recipes that we’ve wanted to make for some time but just haven’t. Prepare a nice, unique dish for yourself and loved ones, and feel a sense of accomplishment. This also helps connect you to food, making you a more conscious, and therefore healthier, eater.
Read a book
Books have changed the course of the world, and they can change the course of your life. Go get a library card or buy a book online, and read it. Understand the world with a better perspective and feel intelligent.
This is a no-brainer. Physical activity can do wonders for our ability to perform cognitive tasks, concentrate and simply be productive.
Successful people generally have one or two hobbies they are passionate about. Hobbies make us feel good, give us something to care about besides work and help free our minds.
Some other ideas:
- Do some genealogy to learn about deceased relatives. Chances are you’ll find some fascinating stories.
- Star gaze and see what the stars can teach you.
- Learn about photography techniques. This is something most people wish they knew more about.
- Teach yourself a magic trick. It might seem like a worthless skill, but kids love it.
- Whittle, or make something out of wood. Make that craft or do that project you’ve been thinking about.
Three Things Not To Do With Free Time
Play On Your Smartphone
This also includes setting your fantasy football lineup, scrolling through meme-based websites, etc. Fall back on these weak-sauce free time activities, and you’ll feel silly once free time is over.
While it might seem like a reasonable thing to do, don’t get lost in a maze of your favorite blogs. Again, don’t do things that you can reasonably expect to do on a regular night after work.
Daytime television is generally ad-laced garbage. Flipping on the television is a great way to dread the prospect of going back to work instead of feeling rejuvenated.
How Much Leisure Time Is Normal To Have?
Feeling like you have no free time? Let’s take a look at how much free time people your age usually have. These are averages, but still useful.
Age: Average Hours of Leisure Time Per Day
- 15-19: 5.8 hours
- 20-24: 4.7
- 25-34: 4.25
- 35-44: 4
- 45-54: 4.7
- 55-64: 5.57
- 65-74: 6.8
- 75+: 7.8
How People Spend Leisure Time
The average American has about 5 hours of leisure time a day. Here is how we use it (ages 15 and over):
- Watching TV: 2 hours, 49 minutes
- Socializing: 38 minutes
- Playing games, using computer for leisure: 27 minutes
- Reading: 19 minutes
- Sports, exercise, recreation: 17 minutes
- Relaxing, thinking, other activities: about 30 minutes
Source: American Time Use Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014
Other Time Tidbits
- For every additional hour we get free, another 30 minutes goes to watching television.
- Only 38% of Americans entertain friends or family at home at least once a year.
- On average, men spend about 6 hours a day on leisure and women spend 5.2 hours.
- Employed adults living in households with no children under age 18 engaged in leisure activities for 4.6 hours per day, almost an hour more than employed adults living with a child under age 6.
Source: Time.com, American Time Use Survey, Labor Department