Is it bad to have a lot of free time?

Everyone values ​​having free time, time that you can occupy with your leisure activities, go for a walk, stay with friends or simply take the opportunity to rest from the hectic pace of life of each worker.

The relationship between happiness and leisure appears 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 question has been tackled experimentally over the past decade and the revealing data we will discover below.

    Is it bad to have a lot of free time?

    Most workers live at the hectic pace of everyday life. Most of our days are occupied with work obligations, which makes us feel like we don’t have time for anything. We tell ourselves that we need more vacation, that we hope the weekends last three days or, crossing our fingers, we manage to go out before work.

    The word “business” comes from the Latin “nec” and “otium”, literally meaning “no leisure”, which is why we associate that the more hours we have to work, the less time we have to enjoy our leisure time. , family, friends and rest, activities that bring us well-being and satisfaction. It is for this reason that most think that having more free time means being happier, but … What is certain about this statement? Maybe it can be bad to have too much free time?

    It was this question that motivated Marissa Sharif’s group, made up of researchers from the universities of California and Pennsylvania, to do research to determine the extent to which free time involves well-being and happiness.

      Neither too much nor too little

      While previous research had already pointed out that having too little free time implied dissatisfaction and lack of well-being, having too much time is not always good. In Sharif’s research, titled The Effects of Being Poor Time and Rich Time on Life Satisfaction, the researchers analyzed data from a sample of about 35,000 people.

      In the first part of this research, data from 21,736 U.S. citizens who participated in the American Time Use Survey between 2012 and 2013 were analyzed, in which participants reported what they had done in the past 24 time. day and duration of each activity they performed, as well as the degree of well-being.

      The researchers found that, as free time increased so did well-being, but with a limit: at two o’clock, it was maintained, and when they had five hours of leisure, it began to decrease appreciably.

      In another phase of the research, Sharif et al. (2018) also analyzed information obtained from 13,639 Americans who participated in the National Study on Workforce Change between 1992 and 2008. In the survey, there were all kinds of questions work-related, but some were asked about how much leisure time participants had. These questions included:

      “On average, on the days you work, how many hours / minutes do you spend in your leisure time? “

      “Considering all of this, how do you feel about your life these days? You would say that you feel: 1. Very satisfied, 2. A little satisfied, 3. A little dissatisfied, 4. Very dissatisfied »

      Again, Sharif’s group found that high levels of leisure were significantly associated with high levels of well-being, but there was always a limit. People who have exceeded this free time limit no longer express well-being from that point on, which means that more free time does not mean more happiness. It’s like the Golden Curls tale: neither the small chair nor the large chair makes her happy, only the average.

        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 some free time each day for a period of six months.

        Participants were randomly assigned to have little (15 minutes per day), moderate (3.5 hours per day) and lots (7 hours per day) of free time. Participants were asked to indicate what they believed to be their levels of pleasure, happiness, and satisfaction.

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

        The second experiment was to discover the potential role of productivity. Therefore, participants were asked to imagine having moderate (3.5 hours) and high (7 hours) free time per day, but they were also asked to imagine investing this time in productive activities ( for example, exercising, hobbies or running) and unproductive. activities (for example, watching television or using the computer).

        The researchers found that participants with more free time reported lower levels of well-being when performing unproductive activities. However, those who have done productive activities, even when assigned to them in the group of those with a lot of free time, feel satisfied and with levels of well-being similar to those in the moderate leisure group.

          Retirement and unemployment

          Although the research initially aimed to find the relationship between subjective well-being and available leisure time, research into how people invest their leisure time and to what extent also influences well-being also meant reveal results. His research suggests that having full days of free time to fill can lead to a feeling of unhappiness.

          From this perspective, research highlights the need to learn to manage your free time well, especially when going through periods such as retirement or unemployment.

          People who find themselves in this type of situation can run the risk of feeling deeply dissatisfied, unhappy and feeling wasted, which is why it is highly recommended to fill the empty time with activities such as taking training courses. , aim for languages, play sports or do any activity that an organization has over time.

          Bibliographical references

          • Sharif, Marissa and Mogilner, Cassie and Hershfield, Hal. (2018). The effects of being poor and rich in time on life satisfaction. SSRN electronic journal. 10.2139 / ssrn.3285436.
          • Sharif, MA, Mogilner, C. and Hershfield, HE (2021). Having too little or too much time is linked to less subjective well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspp0000391
          • Roxburgh, S. (2004). “There are just not enough hours a day”: the mental health consequences of time pressure. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 45 (2), 115-131.
          • Teuchmann, K., Totterdell, P. and Parker, SK (1999). Haste, Unhappy, and Exhausted: A Sampling Study of Experiments on the Relationships Between Time Pressure, Perceived Control, Mood, and Emotional Burnout in a Group of Accountants. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 4 (1), 37.
          • Holbrook, MB and Lehmann, DR (1981). Discretionary time allocation: Complementarity between activities. Journal of Consumer Research, 7 (4), 395-406.
          • Kahneman, D., Krueger, AB, Schkade, DA, Schwarz, N. and Stone, AA (2004). A method of inquiry to characterize the experience of everyday life: the method of daily reconstruction. Sciences, 306 (5702), 1776-1780.
          • Keinan, A. and Kivetz, R. (2010). Orientation towards productivity and consumption of collectible experiences. Journal of Consumer Research, 37 (6), 935-950.

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