The problem with free time

Free time sounds great, but it rarely results in relaxation and satisfaction. Twitter, Instagram, BuzzFeed and a few rounds of 1010! — an entire afternoon is gone before you realize it.

Why is that?

Unless you have a hobby or passion project, unstructured time easily slips away without the satisfaction of accomplishment. In his new book Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, Cal Newport explains why it's actually easier to find fulfillment in professional endeavors:

Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed.

So what do we make of this? Two things come to mind:

  1. It's okay to pour your heart into your work. It took me a long time to realize that it's okay to like work.
  2. Structuring free time may actually be key to relaxing. I know that I gravitate towards my phone and computer unless there is a clear alternative. Scheduling those alternatives is starting to seem like a really good idea.

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Have a great day!


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