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The Art of Free Time (and how to make the most of it)

Free Time. When we’re working it’s often all we can think about… The moment when we get off work, the vacation time, the weekend, that magical moment when all the laundry and the cleaning and the errands are done when we can finally do whatever the hell it is *we* want.

Father teaching son to fish on the dock of a beautiful lake

Many of us spend the whole week dreaming of it, and fantasizing about what we'll do with all that free time...

And yet, what most of us seem to be doing is getting each and every nano-second of it scheduled. There are new skills to learn, places we *need* to travel to, new restaurants and scenes to be seen in. And always the newest fashion or tech or gadget or whatchamacallit to occupy even more of our time. All of which is how free time can end up feeling a lot less "free."

Is it any wonder so many Americans are unhappy in their jobs and lives? A whopping 85% of us hate our jobs. A 2020 poll showed Americans are unhappier now than in the last 50 years. And only 14% of adults here would even say they are happy. Shocking, but maybe not surprising.

In between working and consuming I think many of us have lost the ability to enjoy our free time. To actually relax and settle into our lives and, you know… find pleasure in them. To drink coffee late into the morning (without making goals or journal or vision boarding), to putz around in our homes. To try out a walk in the woods or a new recipe without needing it to be Instagram worthy, without needing anyone else to see it all.

How do we get out of this? And learn the Art of Making the most of our Free time? There's no one size fits all answer. Some of this you're going to have to figure out as you go, with trial and error experimenting, but I do have a few guidelines and ideas to get you started.

1. Quality, not quantity.

Unpack your free time schedule. That list of activities you’ve crammed in for that weeklong vacation or day off? Divide it by two, better yet, by three.

Leave space to be bored, to meander, to nap, to woolgather — those moments, when things get quiet are usually when the magic happens (see #2 & #3 below). Stop trying to maximize your free time. Idle time is not wasted time, it’s the time where ideas, pleasures, thoughts, and connections grow. As George Mac Donald said:

“Certainly work is not always required of a man. There is such a thing as a sacred idleness.”

2. Impress yourself, not others.

Stop trying to impress your peer group with your leisure time. Oh, I know… You would never! Only you do. We all do, or why would we be spending our vacations documenting the experience for other people on social media rather than living it for ourselves?

Ask yourself, if no one could ever know about it, would you still buy it? Would you still do it? Would it still provide you with the same level of happiness as lording it over the neighbors? If so-and-so didn’t have it/hadn’t done it first, would you even be interested in it?

The things we need the most, can’t be bought, or captured in the perfect photo. Your favorite moments are probably, mostly photo-less, and they probably didn’t involve the latest thing you bought either. I’m not saying don’t buy things or take trips. I’m only asking that you vet them thoroughly for pleasure, and weed out the things that are merely about trying to keep up with the Jones.

3. Be present (Stop multi-tasking away your free time).

We often use our screens to do two things (at least!) at once. We’re trying to be at the new hot spot in town *and* taking photos for social media. We’re spending “quality” time with family *while* watching the latest episode. We’re on a date *and* checking the latest game score.

But the human brain can’t be in two places at once, and so we default to the low attention/high reward task and neglect the other one altogether. Why? Because the other activity, connecting/being present is uncertain. It’s risky and unpredictable, and we often use screens to avoid it altogether.

Spending quality time with family doesn’t always work out like we planned. Sometimes we don’t make memories. We fight instead. T.V. shows on the other hand? Fairly reliable entertainment.

Vacation time spent on a beach with nothing to do isn’t always magical or relaxing, sometimes it’s boring. That beach photo on Facebook, though? Almost guaranteed to get a dozen or so likes, maybe more.

Screens are easy. Real life isn’t.

Your best moments probably weren’t in front of a screen. Most of them are probably even photo-less. Your first kiss with the love of your life? The first time your child smiled at you. The last conversation you had with a grandparent before they passed. The feeling of magic you got as you kayaked at sunset.

In fact, I’m willing to bet that the magic *only* happens when we’re willing to let go of our screens for an hour or two and just be present. And with that note, it’s time for me to get away from my screen.

I hope this helped, and that it gives you ideas for how to make a life that’s filled with all kinds of moments, the good and the bad, and even the indifferent.

If you liked this post, please give it heart.

And if you would love more tips on how to live a life well-lived, how to dream big, and find new life & love in even the ordinary moments than please be sure to subscribe and follow so you never miss a free love letter from me to you. ;)



Sep 03, 2021

Fun blog.


galen haas
galen haas
Sep 02, 2021

Brilliantly addictive!!

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