Free time is a wrong concept

Lately, I’ve noticed that I have less and less free time. That got me thinking of all the tasks on my to-do list and how they fall into two categories: the ones I have to do and the ones I want to do.

I wondered when I last had free time and realised I was asking the wrong question. I should have asked: when was the last time I did something I wanted to do. The immediate follow up question that popped into my mind was: what tasks are on that list.

That’s when it hit me: there is no free time. All my time is occupied. It just depends on what I occupy it with. Sport, hanging in my sofa watching TV, reading a book, writing a blog post, working for a boss, fixing a broken light bulb or doing the dishes. Everything I do takes up time.

The items on my want-to-do list depend on a lot of factors. For example: sometimes if I’m at work, I would love to be home playing video games; but when I’m at home doing the dishes, sometimes I would rather be at work where I could fix a problem. Which task is on my want-to-do list depends heavily on my mood.

The need-to-do list is more easily assimilated, it’s all tasks that need to get done: putting the trash cans outside every Sunday evening, programming a certain feature for a client or preparing to talk about a topic for an event. Sometimes, the need-to-do and want-to-do overlap, which I really like.

This realisation put a part of my mind at ease. I don’t need to figure out when to plan free time, because tasks on my want-to-do list is my free time. I just need to plan need-to-do and want-to-do tasks more evenly. After a day of working (need-to-do), I should plan some want-to-do tasks such as sport, play a game or spend time with my wife. Since I’ve been doing that and been consciously aware of it, I’ve noticed my stress levels going down because I don’t need to free up time for free time. I secretly had lots of it already, I just had to balance it out more.

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