What We Did With All Our Free Time

In 1930 economist John Maynard Keyes posited that one of the most difficult things in the 21st century would be how to manage all of our leisure time:

For the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.

All the magazine articles from good ol’ Maynard’s day, which dreamed about using all this free time, likely never envisioned that books on time management and stress would be on our best sellers list. It seems we are busier than ever. We look at our busy calendars and laugh at these morons who thought we’d have leisure time. It sure doesn’t feel like we have all this leisure time.

But we are actually up about 45 minutes a day of extra leisure than 40 years prior. We really do have more leisure time. So, why doesn’t it feel like it? Why do we feel more busy if we are actually less busy?

It’s because our solution to the Maynard Problem was to turn leisure into duty. Things which would have firmly been in the leisure category forty years ago are now compulsory activities. Baseball practice isn’t a leisure activity anymore. “Coach says we have to be there”. We’ve got to check up on our social media sites. We feel like failures if we fall behind on our Netflix watch list. And so we feel busy and pressed with what ought to be leisurely.

But we wouldn’t dare admit this. We wear busyness as a badge of honor. Never mind that our busyness is often having to do leisure activities. I’ll confess that I’m amazed the national average is less than 4 hours per day on work and over 5 on leisurely activity. I don’t know many people who fit that schedule. Most people I know work, in some fashion, at least eight hours per day. I’m not sure how people squeeze out 5 hours of leisurely activity. These numbers are skewed by the unemployed. The national average for those working is 8.13 hours per week. And yet even those fully employed still manage 3.28 hours of leisure time. (Source)

I’m arguing that the reason we feel so busy is because we’ve turned that 3.28 hours of leisure time into compulsory activities. Things which should be seen as optional are now mandatory.

I’m convinced that God has given us exactly the right amount of time to do the things which are necessary and that He has called us to do. If we have a time of leisure then let us enjoy it for the glory of God. Let’s play baseball and enjoy it, and not turn it into a job. If our leisure activities become a job then we need to assess whether or not they are actually fulfilling our goals and responsibilities that God has given us to fulfill. If we have a time of work, then let us put our hand to the plow and work with all of our might.

The problem, though, is that so many haven’t sat down to write out goals and responsibilities. And so what happens is that we have all these activities that we aren’t differentiating. This is why we feel so busy. We’ve got a mass of activity and nothing to filter them.

There are two books I’ve found which are really helpful with this.

1. What’s Best Next by Matt Perman (it’s long, but helpful)

2. Do More Better by Tim Challies (it’s short, and probably your best option)

Photo source: here

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