What Do You Do In Your Spare Time?

If conversation leads into my part-time work situation, the most common question asked is how I spend the rest of my time. Sometimes this is from a perspective of the asker being legitimately unsure of what they themselves would do with an extra 20-30 hours each week, and other times it is to compare values and priorities. I figured I might as well make a post on it, as much for my own introspection as explanation.

First, some quick background information: after working about 20 hours per week in my first year freelancing (2012), I decided I really enjoyed having more free time during the day, and that I’d prefer to work even less and just learn to live on a smaller budget. So in 2013, I’ve been working about 10 hours per week and haven’t had any problems living happily within the budget this creates.

Okay, let’s get down to numbers. The standard work-week in the US is 40 hours, so if I work 10 hours per week, I’ve got 30 hours to account for:

  • first, I get an extra hour of sleep each day. I was generally a bit sleep-deprived and understand this is common, so this is a healthy use of 5 hours per week. Some may consider this silly, but feeling tired sucks and not getting enough sleep is bad for your health, so I consider it quite a useful time investment. 25 hours to go.
  • I try to get 60 minutes of exercise each day, in various forms such as walking, bicycling, yoga, and rock climbing. That’s another 5 hours a week, 20 left.
  • cooking is important to me, and I quite enjoy making a nice breakfast and lunch most days. If each adds around 45 minutes to prepare and eat peacefully, that’s 90 minutes a day or 7.5 hours a week. 12.5 remaining!
  • meditation is also important to me, and I allocate another 60 minutes a day to this. 7.5…
  • I never found much time to read when working full-time, but now I read at least 30 minutes more a day, or 2.5 hours more a week. 5 to go.
  • it is quite common for people to check their personal emails and catch up on news or social media at work, but as a freelancer, I don’t get paid for this. Regardless, it is still something I spend an hour on each day, even if it isn’t truly an hour gained. That’s the rest of them!

So there’s an example of how the math works out for me. I could have just said “I enjoy sleeping in, exercising, cooking, meditation, and reading”, but I think this makes it a lot more understandable.

These are just recurring activities, and there are tons of other things to do during the week! Examples of things I’ve done include building chicken coops, volunteering at farms, cooking lunch weekly at a Zen temple (even living at one for a month), and meeting up with friends and family who happen to be visiting wherever I’m living. These are just some things enjoy; I’m sure you’d find plenty of your own.

I try to keep things pretty flexible and I don’t follow an exact schedule. I had spent the past 18 months or so trying to work a couple hours every day, but recently I’ve found that I really enjoy working 3-4 hours each Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and having 4 days off per week. The added benefit of not working two days in a row is also great!

An important note is that these aren’t things I initially settled on and fell into right away. When I first found myself with an abundance of time, I fell into my previous habits of filling a lot of it with TV and video games, the things I did to “wind down” after work. This is likely unavoidable for a lot of people such as myself, and is perhaps a phase one just needs to exhaust. To get a little off-topic (but that’s okay because I’m done), this is also why taking 2 week (aka too weak) vacations from a full-time job is unlikely to let you discover anything particularly useful about yourself, and may even leave you thinking like I’ve thought before, “I’m bored, I don’t know what to do with all this time, I better go back to work!” Resist this feeling with all your willpower!

Okay, I’d love to hear what you do in your spare time, what you wish you had more time for, and any schedule changes you’ve made, considered, or rejected, to accommodate for such things.

  • Gizero

    Working 10 hours a week, do you earn enough to save for your retirement?

    • mrooney

      Important question Gizero! Indeed, I am maxing out a Roth IRA as well as contributing to a Simple IRA, such that I’m saving about $8,500-$10,000 per year. I’ve plugged my numbers into various retirement calculators and all looks well to not be reliant on income as early as age 50. I go into a lot greater detail on finances in previous posts at http://mikerooney.rowk.com/freelance-resources/, should you be curious. If you have any tips or suggestions, certainly let me know!

  • http://manabi.org Alex Ehlke

    Been interesting to follow your posts on this. Just to the point of what to do in the extra free time, there are a number of hobbies that take a significant amount of investment (time and otherwise) to really feel like you’re achieving anything. If you can find one of those that you’re interested in they can be really rewarding, and a nice reprieve from what you’re already spending your time on (to go with the context of spending less of your life in work). Music composition is one for me, for friends includes painting etc.

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