Is It Bad To Have A Lot Of Free Time?

Is it bad to have a lot of free time?

Everyone values ​​having free time, time that we can spend with our hobbies, going for a walk, meeting friends or simply taking advantage of it to rest from the frenetic pace that every worker’s life entails.

The relationship between happiness and free time seems to be directly proportional. As our free time grows, so does our sense of well-being, but to what extent? Is there a limit?

Is it bad to have a lot of free time? This has been a question addressed experimentally in the last decade and whose revealing data we will discover below.

Is it bad to have a lot of free time?

Most workers live the frenetic pace of day-to-day life. Most of our days are occupied by work obligations, which make us feel like we don’t have time for anything. We tell ourselves that we need more vacations, that we wish the weekends were three days long or, crossing our fingers, we can get off work early.

The word “business” comes from the Latin “nec” and “otium”, literally meaning “non-leisure”, which is why we associate that the more hours of work we have, the less time we will have to enjoy our hobbies, family, friends and rest, activities that bring us well-being and satisfaction. It is for this reason that Most people have the idea in their heads that having more free time means being happier, but… What is true about this statement? Could it be bad to have too much free time?

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It was this question that motivated Marissa Sharif’s group, made up of researchers from the universities of California and Pennsylvania, to carry out research focusing on finding out to what extent free hours imply well-being and happiness.

Neither too much nor too little

Although previous research had already pointed out that having too little free time implies dissatisfaction and lack of well-being, having too much time is not always good In Sharif’s research, titled The Effects of Being Time Poor and Time Rich on Life Satisfaction (The effects of having a lot and little free time on life satisfaction) the researchers analyzed data obtained from a sample of nearly 35,000 people.

In the first part of this research, the data of 21,736 American citizens who participated in the American Time Use Survey between 2012 and 2013 were analyzed, in which the participants indicated what they had done in the 24 hours prior to answering the questionnaire, indicating the time of day and the duration of each activity they had carried out, in addition to reporting their level of well-being.

The researchers found that, As free time increased, so did well-being, but there was a limit: after two hours it was maintained, and when you had five hours of free time it began to reduce noticeably.

Too much free time

In another phase of their research, Sharif et al. (2018) also analyzed the information obtained from 13,639 Americans who participated in the National Study of the Changing Workforce between 1992 and 2008. The survey had all kinds of questions related to work, but some were aimed at finding out what the amount of leisure time that the participants had. Among these questions were:

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“On average, on the days you are working, how many hours/minutes do you spend on free-time activities?”

“All things considered, how do you feel about your life these days? Would you say you feel: 1. Very satisfied, 2. Somewhat satisfied, 3. Somewhat dissatisfied, 4. Very dissatisfied”

Again, Sharif’s group found that high levels of free time were significantly associated with high levels of well-being, but there was still a limit. People who exceeded this free time limit did not show greater well-being from that point onwards, meaning that more free time is not synonymous with more happiness It’s like in the story of Goldilocks: neither the small chair nor the big chair makes her happy, only the medium one.

Free time, well-being and productivity

To better understand this phenomenon, the researchers conducted two online experiments involving a sample of more than 6,000 participants. In the first experiment, volunteers were asked to imagine having a certain number of free hours each day for a period of six months.

Participants were randomly assigned to have little (15 minutes a day), moderate (3.5 hours a day), and a lot (7 hours a day) free time. Participants were asked to indicate what they believed their degrees of enjoyment, happiness, and satisfaction would be.

Participants in the low and high free time groups reported that they believed they would have lower well-being compared to the moderate group. The researchers found that those who had little leisure time felt more stressed than those who had moderate free time contributing to lower well-being, while those who had a lot of free time felt more unproductive than those in the moderate group, which also reduced their subjective well-being.

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The second experiment consisted of finding out the potential role of productivity. To do this, they asked participants to imagine having moderate (3.5 hours) and high (7 hours) free time per day, but they were also asked to imagine spending that time in productive activities (e.g., doing exercise, hobbies, or running) and unproductive activities (e.g., watching television or using the computer).

The researchers found that participants with more free time reported lower levels of well-being when doing unproductive activities. Instead, those who did productive activities, even when they had been assigned to the group of those who had a lot of free time, felt satisfied and with levels of well-being similar to those of people in the moderate free time group.

Retirement and unemployment

Although initially the research had been oriented towards finding the relationship between subjective well-being and the hours of free time available, the fact of investigating how people invest their leisure time and to what extent it influences their well-being also made revealing findings. His research suggests that Having entire days of free time to fill can lead to a feeling of unhappiness

Taking this into account, the research highlights the need to learn to properly manage free time, especially when one is going through periods such as retirement or being unemployed.

People who find themselves in this type of situation may run the risk of feeling deeply dissatisfied, unhappy and feeling like they are wasting their time, which is why it is highly recommended to fill empty time with activities such as attending training courses, signing up for languages. , play sports or carry out any activity that an organization has over time.