How Do YOU Use Your Free Time?

on Feb 13, 2011

I keep involved in many things. I train in and teach karate. I train in capoeira. I read many, many books (most of which are non-fiction). I go to weekly inline skating events where I skate NYC streets alongside dozens of other skaters. I work with research professors. And of course I write these blog posts. Many of these activities have been mainstays for years. People ask where I get the time to do these things. I don’t get the time from anywhere. I make time by cutting out other things, like TV and video games. The fact is, in our modern society, with little exception, everyone has free time. It’s all about what you choose to do with it.

Consider this example: oftentimes, I’ll see an interesting and perhaps silly project on the internet, like someone making a sniper rifle out of Lego. What kills me is when others see this and immediately claim: oh, someone has too much time on their hands. They’re missing the point. Everyone has free time – the difference with the person that made the Lego sniper rifle is that he knows how to make interesting use of his free time.

By far, the biggest time killer (and an uninteresting one at that) for past generations, including my own, has been TV. It bothers me that the television is at the center of our modern life. Walk into most homes and you’ll find the TV in the living room with all the furniture arranged around it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, because for decades watching TV was more or less the only feasible way to spend free time. This bleak, but appropriate, claim is one made by Clay Shirky in his stellar book, Cognitive Surplus.

This point sets a stark contrast to a world that’s deeply changed over the last decade. Shirky discusses how the emergence of the internet is fast destroying the one way media model established by the TV. As I mentioned in my previous post on The Beauty of ‘The Cloud’, it costs nothing more than time and effort for anyone with an internet connection to share her thoughts with the world (just as I do so with this blog). Also, the internet allows people of specific interests to find and engage each other. is a fantastic service the makes this super easy.

Aren’t we fortunate to live in such a world? There’s more opportunity than ever before to do interesting things. But each requires our time. So we must make our choices on what to make of our free time, a precious resource. It should be obvious that my suggestion is to cut out TV. Just get rid of it. Or hide it. It’s a magnet that keeps us in its trance and squanders away our greatest asset.

Another medium to consider dropping, which especially applies to my own generation, is video games. It’s something that I’ve cut out nearly completely. Those that have known me for at least a few years are probably shocked to hear this. I used to be so deeply obsessed with video games. It was all I talked about. It pains me a bit when I see other folks that do this. One, cause I used to be like this and two, because there’s so much more to life. I’m not saying video games are all bad or even mostly bad. They’re incredibly interesting and imaginative and throw us into creative worlds. They help with coordination and can even be a great social experience when friends are also involved. Still, it’s just one of many interesting things in life. And some of those other things are so much more enriching – mentally, socially, and professionally – than video games.

So go do something that sparks your mind and gets it to churn in different ways. Read a book on your commute. Do something engaging when hanging out with friends (don’t just watch a movie). Partake in a social physical activity. Build something cool. If you insist on remaining in front of a screen, then read some well written blogs. Watch a TED Talk. Write about what’s on your mind and share it. Enrich your life!