You probably aren’t really maximizing your potential when this happens: “My partner accused me of being immature. I told him to get out of my fort.” You know you have too much time on your hand when after much pondering you realize that parallel lines have so much in common that it’s a shame they never meet.
I wonder what God did on that famous seventh day. I know it says rest but was God so tired that the Lord spent the whole day in bed? Was God bored with a whole day of nothing to do? I wonder what happened the next day….
Americans over the age of 15 average more than five hours of free time a day. That’s almost a third of the time we’re awake! Most of that unprecedented leisure time is used for entertainment: television, surfing the web, video games and so on. But as Proverbs 18:9 “He also that is slothful in his work is brother to him that is a great waster.” Don’t waste good time. Get around to planning good things for yourself. Make the most of the day. God wants us to enjoy time freed from strain and labor.
People complain about how busy they are. Stressed out, running around, too much to do, no time to relax. Yet, the opposite problem exists for many. They have too much time on their hands. Nothing to do and all day to do it. And, that’s not just retired or unemployed folks. It’s younger people and working people who don’t know how to spend their time off. So, what do they do? They keep working. Surprisingly, or is it anymore, that more than half of Americans don’t take all their paid vacation days.
Which is crazy since we keep on trying to save time by doing things, everything, faster. Someone said, “A few years ago, an African friend making her first trip to a Western nation visited our home. She observed my wife working in the house and preparing dinner. She was amazed to see one labor-saving device after the other: an electric stove, a large refrigerator and freezer, a microwave oven, a garbage disposal, a dishwasher, a washer and dryer, and a vacuum cleaner. Most of our friend’s day, every day, was taken up with performing by hand the tasks accomplished by our appliances. Finally, she turned to my wife in astonishment and asked, “What do you do with all your time?” She couldn’t imagine having so much free time.
Clearly, no one likes being stressed out, with no time to relax or do what they want to do. That’s why in theory at least we crave leisure time,
down time. What makes chilling out so enjoyable is the break from regular responsibilities. A break from work, yay! A break from household tasks, whoopee! A break from childcare, wow, time for myself!
But when we have nothing to look forward to for the day, for the week, for the month—for the rest of our lives—time on our hands to do anything is anything but enjoyable. It’s unnerving. It makes us uneasy. It makes us feel unnecessary. And it is oh, so boring.
With too much time on your hands, not only do you feel bored, but you probably also feel lonely, anxious, angry and depressed. And, if you are living with others, it’s so easy to point fingers of blame (“we never do anything”). Let’s face it, most people simply don’t know what to do with themselves when they are alone (or with a partner), when they have no structured activity or scheduled socializing.
Recognizing what you’d like to do, initiating the event, and then following through with making it happen is hard to do on our own. That’s why people have a tendency to while away their down time with passive activities. They watch TV, drink or sleep the day away. But all leisure time activities are not the same in value either. Those that have the highest potential for making us feel joyful and jubilant are those that are active, such as participating in games, sports, hobbies, travel and socializing. This is true whether you have a weekend off, a summer off, are independently wealthy or are fully retired.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of the best-selling book Finding Flow, says that most people feel happiest when they are “fully involved in meeting a challenge, solving a problem or discovering something new. Most activities that produce flow—a peak feeling of happiness—come from being fully involved in something, focusing our attention and making demands on our skills.”
Though many people would agree that such activities improve their mood, they still frequently fall into passive pursuits. Why do we do this? Because it takes more time, energy and thought to schedule a tennis game with friends than to flip on the TV. Even if you’re planning a solitary activity, like taking a stroll on the boardwalk, you have to organize yourself to dress right, drive there, park and get motivated to walk. It’s not a major production to do, yet it’s still much easier not to bother and let the time go by passively.
If when you have leisure time, you feel more listless and lethargic than rested and relaxed, it’s time to get going. Stop taking the easy road. Instead, push yourself or gently pull yourself forward. Get involved in activities that require movement, learning and/or socializing. As your mood improves, your outlook on life will blossom. Then you’ll realize you no longer have too much time on your hands. Nor, will you be “crazy busy.”
Obviously, we’re talking about finding a way to get some balance in your life between being too hard of a worker and not having anything you feel is really worthwhile to do. And then there’s retirement.
Everyone gets excited about retirement, at least everyone who thinks there is a great life to be had in retirements. We think we’re going to walk out the door and never look back and spend our days relaxing and traveling. But then we wake up on that first day of the rest of your life and they find… it isn’t what they thought it was going to be.
Many couples suffer from what’s known as “Retired Husband Syndrome.” Did you know that divorce rates for couples over 50 have doubled since 1990? Yeah, I guess it’s not so great to hang out together all day and night long. One day, you’re on your own schedule for most of the day, and then the very next day, it’s you two all the time. That can be tough.
The truth is it’s tough to have a lot of time on your hand. If you have a lot of spare time with no agenda, it demands a lot from us. When it comes to retirees, a lot of the relationship trouble comes from either spouse or partner not knowing what they want. People who really got their identity wrapped up in what they did for a living, can find a big hole in themselves. Depression and dissatisfaction can kick in and kick their butts. They become unhappy, and that unhappiness bleeds out into all areas of their life. The people who are happiest in retirement are those who have really put some thought into what they want to do next.
I know we all say when we retire we’re going to fill our free time with hobbies, travel, visit children and grandchildren but doing these don’t always happen. Besides, hobbies and the occasional vacation won’t sufficiently fill eight hours per day, seven days per week. And the fact is assuming our health is good, we probably have a lot of retirement aspirations—things you want to do, places you want to go, but money can be an issue. Unfortunately, you might not have enough money to do them. Especially when people are laid off or forced into retirement in their late 50s or early 60s, that causes their retirement projections to fall short of expectations. We end up with a lot
of time on our hands. In other words, we’re not supposed to just leave work and say, ‘Oh, I’ll figure it out.
Faith is great but put some planning into your time off. We need to have to be able to focus ourselves if something else isn’t going to be doing it any longer, such as work. Reclaim what inspired you when you were younger. Or realize what God wants you to be about and get to it.
Of course, this is true for younger people today also, especially if they haven’t figured out to make the most of themselves or believe in themselves. Especially if since they’ve grown up in a world that has been completely created to give us more free time than any other humans have ever had. We end up with too much time on our hands—and not big enough aspirations to fill it.
Sometimes we’re just too afraid to take a risk. We want to know the outcome before we take the leap. But scripture tells us we can’t do this. Ecclesiastes says, “Farmers who wait for perfect weather never plant. If they watch every cloud, they never harvest.” Stop waiting for the perfect opportunity and timing. The time is now. Turn off your email, shut down Twitter or Instagram. Block out distractions. And then go for something new or something you really want to do. Then do it again tomorrow. The Lord can work with us if we’re willing to trust God. Good things are coming.
Here are things we probably wasted at least four hours doing over the past month: Sleeping too much. Watching TV too much. Wishing people “happy birthday” on Facebook. Sitting in a car. Reading less than valuable books. If you took one of these hours each week and applied it to doing something more inspiring and worthy, you will have your most exciting and profound month perhaps in years. If you do this for an entire year, your life will change in ways you can’t imagine today.
We want to do more than just do time, whether we still have decades to go or have already lived decades. Get off your uninspired treadmill and start making things happen. Find motivation to do what you’re not doing yet. Don’t let time or someone else decide whether you do this. You should be deciding this. Do the right thing, don’t just do time.
Can the church say Amen?