It’s easy to work and feel productive; it’s hard to do nothing and feel relaxed.
From an early age we learn how to follow a schedule and have a productive day. Children adhere to a teacher’s schedule while in school, followed by homework afterwards. Adults quickly find their routine in a new job and feel comforted in the daily repetition.
This is how we spend our productive hours, and it’s a good way to spend them. But what about our unproductive hours, the free time that fills in the blank spaces of our days?
This is where many of us slip into voluntary distraction. Not knowing what to do with ourselves, we fall onto the path of least resistance. This is our phones and the TV; video games and social media. It’s so easy to waste our free time on these distractions and lose out on what makes us unique and human.
I believe that the issue is in the education. We spend years learning everything from STEM to the arts, but nothing about how to use free time. Maybe this stems from the idea that free time should be kept free and unstructured, and so needs no lessons.
The biggest case against unstructured free time can be found in the daily routine of Sir Winston Churchill. Even at the height of World War II, his daily routine consisted of taking two baths, taking an afternoon nap, reading as many newspapers and books that he could get his hands on, having leisurely meals with his family, quietly walking and contemplating, and enjoying his scotch and cigars.
His leisure was strictly planned out the night before. He left nothing up to chance, the feeling that says “I’d rather watch TV than read a book right now.” His free time was anything but free, and yet that allowed him to fully enjoy it.
Optimizing leisure time was the first lesson we learned in life. Children are masters of the imagination and use it to have the most wild adventures on an otherwise boring afternoon. This gift is taken away from them in school and replaced with lessons in optimizing work time.
It’s time to regain our enjoyment of free time. This can be as simple as setting aside an hour each day to read, or going for a walk with your loved one. It can be used to practice a creative art such as writing or playing an instrument.
The use of free time is what sets truly successful people apart from the rest of us. Winston Churchill used it to great advantage during the darkest time of the 20th century. Try setting some time aside, away from screens, and truly enjoy peace and quiet.