Friday, July 29, 2016

Free Time - Is It Really?

Recently, I heard someone talk about how they spent their free time.  It made me wonder, what exactly is free time?  And by free, do we mean available or without cost?  I’m not sure it’s either.
Wikipedia defines free time as time spent away from business, work, job hunting, domestic chores and education, not including time spent on necessary activities such as eating and sleeping.
An even broader definition of free time comes from  time available for hobbies and other activities that you enjoy, free from duties or responsibilities.
I guess I’d lean toward the second definition, but is time ever free? Time is like gold dust, slipping through your fingers and captured by the wind.  Once passed, time can never be reclaimed, and therefore, shouldn’t be wasted.
You could easily make the argument that free time, or leisure time, isn’t really wasted. It allows us to recharge our batteries, and makes us more productive when we tackle the “must dos” of life.  Some percentage of our time should be available to relax and recharge, but how much?
Much of our life, our employer defines the ratio of free time to work for us.  If your boss gives you two weeks’ paid vacation per year and you add in all weekends, you’ll average about 30% of each week to use as you wish.  Sounds low doesn’t it?  Well, it gets worse.  Not all of that 30% is truly available.
You probably use much of this time for other duties and responsibilities: home maintenance, domestic chores, volunteering, family commitments, responding to work-related emails, weekend work assignments, etc.  You might be lucky to end up with one day per week to actually do what you desire--maybe less.  But even that time isn’t free, or without cost.  Think about it.  You worked 70% of the year to earn it.
I’m retired after working more than 32 years in corporate America, conservatively averaging 50 hours per week on the job, and often traveling on weekends.  I’m extremely grateful to be healthy and young enough to enjoy my retirement, but I have never considered my leisure time as free or that I’m entitled to it. I earned my retirement many times over, and I try not to waste a single day of it.  It’s one of the reasons I write. It’s enjoyable, gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and doesn’t interfere with my other interests and activities.
At the other end of the spectrum, we’ve all known people who fear giving the perception they have free time, even after retiring.  They believe appearing busy gives them an air of importance.  These people truly waste time, filling it with pretentious sounding busy work.  To them, I share a quote from Henry David Thoreau. It’s not enough to be busy. So are the ants. The question is, what are we busy about?
I’ve not heard of anyone wishing from their death bed that they’d spent more time at work.  At the end of our lives, most of us would give anything to be able to spend more time with our family and friends.  Isn’t that the best evidence free time is worth more than any material possession? 

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