I, too, am one of the people who can't just look at the ceiling all day. But I am also burned out and tired enough to probably need at least one year for complete [non-passive] leisure. I'll likely pick a hand craft, write those N programs I always wanted, start properly cleaning the house, be a bit more persistent in my workout regime etc. -- many things really.
I know this because I've been going through the very usual "work 9 months, rest for 3" rhythm that many programmers have gone through. But asking a bunch of Joes and Janes that never had that? Not very useful IMO.
And yes, too much free time is bad. I've taken such a good care of my wife that eventually she lost all sense of purpose and life direction and now she has to try really hard every day to rediscover them again.
Obviously I don't claim to know her individual circumstances but speaking in more general terms, a seeming excess in free time may sometimes prove fruitful. Could be that a person was stuck in a "local maximum" in their former life, and by being pushed off that low hill they will eventually wander upon a much higher mountain of achievement. In other words, with a new self-directed sense of purpose they may find something much more fulfilling than the standard "eking out a paycheck" that most of us accept as the normal state of affairs. And that may take that a long time to accomplish, longer than they would ever been able to make time for in their old life filled with busywork.
The problem with all that however is that I've been the strongest person of everyone around me for all my life and when I finally broke and needed somebody else to support me for 1-2 years, she wasn't (and still isn't) there to do that for me. So I continue my death march, at a great cost for my physical and mental health. And I keep a routine that helps me stay in shape but I can feel it every day that this is not what the soul wants. But eh, oh well.
She's an amazing woman and she'll crawl out of this eventually but in the meantime my needing help just broke her back and made her more depressed -- because she can't help the man she loves with exactly the thing he needs help with.
One of the things you said is very apt: indeed getting out of the local maximum and realizing the world is yours for the taking and that can you do so much more can be very frightening to a lot of people, her included. She's still struggling a lot with it and sometimes still wants to just get back to do house work and making some money on the side with a part-time job. I mean, eventually she might do just that but at least it will have been an informed choice, which IMO would be fair.
But yes, even arriving at "what do I want now?" in this situation takes a long time indeed. Which can be sad and discouraging when you watch as a side observer.
It reminds me of that joke: a biology professor is teaching physiology. He takes a frog and says "jump". The frog jumps. The prof then chops the frog's legs, and says "jump" again. The frog now stands motionless. "We conclude", says the prof, "that a frog's hearing depends on its legs!".
Fbivrg fpvragvfgf qvfpbirerq gurer'f n qverpg areir pbaarpgvba orgjrra gur rlrf naq gur erpghz. Guvf jnf irevsvrq rkcrevzragnyyl ol bofreivat gung vafregvat na bowrpg vagb gur erpghz jvyy znxr gur fhowrpg pel, naq vafregvat n arrqyr vagb gur rlr jvyy znxr gur fhowrpg rkpergr.
This seems like a weird research design to me with limited power to actually tell us anything. Why would we think the amount of enjoyment people imagine having in response to an amount of free time we tell them to imagine would correlate well with actual experiences? Are people generally good at predicting how much they would enjoy random imaginary circumstances?
Now that might be an interesting study, how much do the things we predict will make us happy actually make us happy?
OK, fine, good to know I guess, that that's what most people want. I guess it's a kind of inspiring view of humanity, people want to do something useful.
I personally have a lot of “non-work” time, but not that much leisure time. I just fill up time with personal projects, and stuff like house renovation that I would have otherwise put off.
In fact “work time” is only defined for me as “time I do stuff to get paid so I can make other stuff”. So yeah if I could “work” as little as possible, it’d be pretty good.
One is the playful way that explores the problem domain. This does not feel so much like work.
The other can take on a monotonous job at high intensity for days on end, satisfied there is no better way.
For a long time, it was almost always that my free time was in the former and my work in the latter. This resulted in a lot of unfinished personal projects and a deep dissatisfaction with work.
My most productive work has definitely a blend of the two, and there is a skill in knowing when to switch between.
"I don't have to, but I have some time for this" is THE reason that those activities are relaxing. I have to haul some wood recently, but because I absolutely have to do it before the wood is spoiled and because I have many other activites I have to do and too little time, I can't count that as leisure. Last week I had a kind of breakdown and spent whole day gaming. That was THE best day this year, I rested even better than with 1 week of kayaking that I do every year as holidays (which actually became another chore to do with family).
Shrink that denominator!
> participants were asked to imagine having a given amount of discretionary time every day
Seriously? I trust this about as much as I trust a twitter poll.
This is entirely different from asking people to imagine how they would react to a scenario. There is a pretty wide body of research documenting how poorly we tend to be at estimating such reactions.
In some people, some of the time, with no way of knowing beforehand if it's the system failing or the patient.
I’d take a picture of it each week and post it online with commentary on how the week was. Posted a bunch of them online here:
Wow! As someone who never even took a gap year that sounds amazing. Yet so out of reach.
What's stopping you?
Same thing with watching TV. I used to be able to sit down and flip the TV on, with a choice of a handful of stations, and vegge out. Now with several streaming services I can sit there for an hour flipping through stuff to find something, and then turn the TV off because I can't decide on what is most worth my time "right now".
An author's quote that stuck with me:
You have to always be working on 2 books. That way you can work on the other while you procrastinate on the first.
And it helps to have "work" that is hard but enjoyable. Then when you're working hard, you're looking forward to rest; and when you're resting, you're looking forward to work. And you throw in a lot of "play" too, if possible (for me, sport, relationships, etc.). So, whatever you're doing, you're enjoying what you're doing AND you're looking forward to something (work, rest, or play), which adds enjoyment to the present (work, rest, or play).
My anecdotal data-point.
Talking to unemployed people, who want to work, I also know they say that the support systems in the state typically make this really hard: you cannot commit to work without pay, if it risks your status as unemployed, to recieve welfare. If you have to go in to interview or for some welfare process, and can't volunteer that day, a lot of agencies can't use you because they can't rely on you. So, its a double trap: its "safer" to do nothing, because you can't either let down the people you want to do things with or, be denied welfare. Truly, a trap.
So, if you don't have a risk here, I very much suggest you find some thing to do, any thing, which contributes back to some other endevour. Wash dishes in a local kindy. Hold newborn babies in hospital whose parents can't be there. Help pack food for people who are starving. Join a morning pick-up-litter group.
I also know how tedious these suggestions are, how much they hurt and irritate. When they were put to me in times past, I "bit back" and told people not to be facetious or patronising. I knew these things could be done, I didn't need to be "told". I had to be driven out of a slump, taken in hand, and guided to a better sense of my place in the world, so I don't say this as "haven't walked there".
(I only say this because you strongly suggest your are aware this situation is not improving your mental health, or making you happy. To use an internet witticism or two, "you do you" and "Im not the boss of you")
Maybe the best we can do to help a friend in that situation is invite them out to lunch and a walk, and be a kind listener. That has certainly helped me, and I think I've helped a friend or two that way.
The problem usually is that by the second week I want to get to some kind of difficult and productive task but I can not think of anything that can be done within a week so I either do nothing or start something that I do not finish. If I had 6 months off I would certainly be able to fill that with interesting tasks.
When I retire (which I hope is soon, so I can get away from my crushing, but well-compensated schedule), I imagine I will have no problem at all filling my time with projects and a huge backlog of games and books for when I don't feel like doing projects.
i'm not saying you should have a job but I think, for at least me, I need to doing something productive. That could be raising a child, it could be volunteering, it could looking after someone, it could be helping others with their projects or goals, it could be a project that will be for more than just myself, but it needs to be something that I can look back at and say to myself "that was time well spent"
I binged some shows I'm happy I spent the time watching and played some games I have good memories for but plenty of other shows and movies that just wasted my time. Read too much meaningless internet.
Others are not so lucky, they don't know how to spend their time outside of work. I see retired folks frustrated with their lives, lost and directionless. It makes me sad.
I hope you find your way colors. I've been playing with colors for the past 10 years and I got a lot out of it myself.
Something like: "we found that adding grand pianos to houses improves the overall pianism, but the effect levels out at about three pianos per neighborhood."
I guess, if I would continue for a long time I would either pick up gaming with the aim of becoming skilled, or do something productive, like start some programming tasks or similar.
Right now I have a month left.
BTW my main goal for the time being is to experience boredom (where I’m partly succeeding). That way I can hopefully look back at this time and recall why I’m usually busy and why it is a good thing.
The value of free time is very highly dependent upon one's situation and one's conditioning. For a Zen Buddhist Monk it could be valuable. To an inmate in solitary confinement, probably not.
To a modern capitalist office worker with loads of debt, a house full of stuff, and a city full of cars (yeah showing my bias here, sorry), then it could be a world of possibilities while you wear a straightjacket.
Knowing what to do with free time is something we're born with, but it's also something most of us unlearn through decades of rat racing. So regaining that skill of free time appreciation takes... time.
But you can look at it from the opposite perspective. It is well documented that many people suffer increased depression upon returning to work from a holiday. And as many of us know personally, going on holiday can mean 1-4+ days of transition time to finally start to relax and forget about all the (artificial) bullshit we normally think.
So the problem is not that free time isn't useful, but that we are so trained to not know what to do with it that we struggle for a period when exposed to it.
In my experience the act of working has dramatic impact on my perception of free time vs. when I have not been working. We tend to count hours and evaluate their "productiveness" when limited by work, vs. focus on overall outcomes and accomplishment when not. I doubt the latter would echo the feeling that too much free time is a bad thing I know I didn't.
> “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If something must be done in a year, it’ll be done in a year. If it must be done in six months, then it will.
(Could actually be a useful training game. [Far future] enterprise unification territory.)
We are still able to be free and decide by ourselves what to do during the day.
tl;dr of course a study of a society in which large amounts of free time is not a thing would yield people suffering culture shock when they experience it.
...who I hope gets as much free time as is possible.
Most people are not self starting, and self driven, without someone/something driving them most people flounder.