Free Time Is Never Free

“Time is free, but it’s priceless.
You can’t own it, but you can use it.
You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”
– Harvey MacKay

You’ve previously read about how we’re all getting squeezed for time these days – and  how that time crunch is only getting worse.

One mental shift that has been really powerful in my life was the distinction I made to stop treating free time as “free.”

The powerful new ways of looking at time I am about to share with you will change the way you make even small decisions in your life.

You’ll begin evaluating how you spend your life in some new ways, for (hopefully) more fulfilling, valuable and life enriching experiences.

In the past, the words “free time” made me think of that time as a bonus – something that was just there to be spent, and soon enough would be gone.  As I’ve started tracking my time more carefully though, I’ve come to the conclusion time is never free.

In this article you’ll learn a few different ways I’ve changed my internal perception of “free” time – and give you a behind the scenes look into the context of how I look at my time and life.

If Time Isn’t Free – What Is It?

I’ve discussed this a bit in the past in articles considering whether my dreams were worth $60 a week and whether looking for cheaper gas saved me money – or wasted my time.

Time flows from one moment to the next, and just because the school or workday ends doesn’t mean it’s suddenly time without value.

Calling it “free” time implies “valueless” time – and when we think our time has no value, that’s exactly how we treat it.

So what if we wanted to call it something other than “free time”?  Some ideas I rejected include:

  • Spare Time -A little too close to free time for my tastes
  • Slack Time or Buffer Time – Time in between events to ensure they don’t run into each other
  • Idle Time – I like to schedule in “idle” activities and time to relax – but I don’t want all the breaks in my schedule to be looked at through this perspective

I think these are all improvements, but I’ve got three other ways that I think will really give you some new ideas on how to view those moments.  My personal favorite (and in line with my mantra of value your time) is this next one: earned time

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Earned Time

Every free moment of every day is earned.  It takes a certain amount of work just to keep my body healthy, to keep myself fed, to keep myself sheltered.

I’m very fortunate to have the opportunities to do these things, and to me calling it “free time” is in some ways disrespecting ourselves.

When I was a child, I had the opportunity to go to school, come home – and then go play with friends.  All the time after school I believed was free time.  It was not until many years later that I understood the sacrifices my mother and father made so support my family,and I realized that this time was never free.  I may not have earned the time myself – but it had been earned on my behalf.

I came to realize this at a young age: the time I spent enjoying myself had to be earned, either by me or someone else.

Earned time is not valueless – and though as a child I thought it was, it is definitely not free.

Privileged Time

This time isn’t mine, and it isn’t yours.  Our whole lives are gifts.

Those hours I can spend on the weekend hiking?  They could be gone in an instant. They are not a mandate.  There are other people who work far harder than I, struggle for many more hours than I do and still may never have the opportunity to live their lives as I do.

There are many others who, sadly, have passed away and are not alive, who did not have the chance to experience today.

The fact that I am even here to see this day, to spend these hours and minutes – is a privilege.

Free Time is … Freedom Time

Finally, if we must call it free time – I’d like to clarify the definition of “free.”

Free time isn’t “valueless” or “costless” or “spare.”

How about we instead rename free time as freedom time.

The freedom to choose to do what you want, and pursue what you enjoy.

Ultimately that’s what I think is the true definition of free time is.

Every moment, we get to make a choice of how we live our lives.

If we don’t spend that freedom time, if we don’t give it value, if we don’t make it count – ultimately, the responsibility ends with us.

Further Reading

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