Why you should schedule in free time (and what to do with it)

Post by Open Colleges on October 10th, 2016

The idea of scheduling free time may seem to contradict the very nature of “free time”, but trust us, it’s an idea worth exploring!

Why you should schedule free time?

  • So it actually happens!

Life is busy. We seem to run from one thing to another: from work, to dinner prep, to folding the washing, to haranguing the kids into bed, to falling asleep on the lounge at 11pm.

Adding blocks of free time to your schedule ensures that you actually make time to relax, unwind and enjoy life.

If you don’t block hours of free time, you run the risk of filling your spare hours with endless tasks, or wasting the time on things you have little interest in.

  • Work is a sneaky beast

Even if you’re tired, hungry, have a headache or are beginning to get grumpy, it is just all too easy to get caught in the trap of “just one more task”.

When you make the deliberate decision to block out free time, you give yourself permission to stop work, unplug and recharge. Ultimately, having this time off will make you more productive when you return to work.

  • It gives you something to look forward to

Having a block of free time and a plan for how you will spend it will give you something to look forward to when your day gets stressful.

Thinking about the fun you are going to have also activates the reward centre of your brain, and, according to recent science, the anticipation of fun and relaxation can almost be as pleasurable as the events themselves.

  • Free time put to better use

It is easy to waste time if you don’t have a plan.  In this case you might find yourself spending blank hours moldering away on a couch watching a television show you don’t really like.

Now there’s nothing wrong with enjoying couch time, as long as that is how you want to spend your free time, rather than just what you do because you can’t think of anything else. If the latter is the case, couch time can sap you of energy and leave you feeling slightly cheated.

Having a plan for activities (relaxing, stimulating or productive) you want to do in your free time can help you enjoy your work-free hours more thoroughly.

  • Stops last minute stress

No one likes stress, particularly when it comes in our free time. Having a plan for free time can help you not only to accomplish things but to cut down on “what am I going to do?” last minute stress.

  • Get some control

Have a bunch of things you want to accomplish in your lifetime? Do you ever have that feeling that your life is slipping through your fingers? Or do you just never have any time to do things like relax or read a book?

Scheduling your free time can give you a greater sense of control over your life and how you spend your time. After all, how you spend your minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years make up the story of your life. How do you want to tell yours?

How to schedule your free time

So now you know why scheduling your free time is a good idea, let’s work on how you can go about it.

  1. The first step is to have a look at your calendar or diary. Work out when you’re working, studying, doing chores, etc., and from that work out where your free hours are.
  1. Next, ask yourself: what do I really like to do?, what do I want to accomplish in my life? and how can I best unwind? What answers did you come up with? These answers will give you the best ideas for what to do with your free time. For example, if you have ever wanted to learn piano, you can plan a few free hours a week to look up YouTube tutorials, or go to music lessons with a local piano teacher.
  1. In your calendar or diary, block out your free hours one week in advance. Where you have the free blocks schedule in your activities. For example:
  • 8pm – 9.30pm: watch YouTube Learning Piano lesson 1
  • 9.30pm – 10.30pm: Catch up on latest ‘Making a Murderer’ episode


Ideas for your scheduled free time

What you do in your free time doesn’t have to cost you the earth. In fact, there are loads of free activities you can get involved in. So, if you’re stuck for ideas, you can borrow some of ours!


  • Read one of the top 100 books of all time, or just a book that you’ve always promised yourself you’ll look at.
  • Start a journal and examine your own life.
  • Ever wanted to learn a language? Well, there’s no time like the present!
  • Learn to sew and create your own clothes.
  • Make your family tree. You can spend hours researching and you never know what interesting facts may turn up!
  • The internet is a wonderful thing, use it to learn a musical instrument.
  • Learn to play chess, or bust out an old favourite board game.
  • Turn yourself into an expert on one subject. If you love ancient history, why not spend a few hours a week researching a particular period in Egyptian history? Within a few months you’ll find you are an expert!
  • Teach yourself to sing. There’s loads of lessons online, and who knows where this new hobby may lead?
  • Get some zen in your life and learn to meditate.
  • Make use of your local library to pick up an interesting book or borrow a DVD.
  • Ever wondered about the basics of your car? Why not learn how to change your oil, or your tyre?

Get creative

  • Make jewellery and wear your creations. If you find you have a flair for it, you could even sell what you make!
  • Paint a picture, or learn to draw. Acrylic paints are relatively cheap, as are canvasses. Why not pick up some paint and a canvass and get creative?
  • Get some paper, scissors and get creative with the ancient art of origami.
  • Try your hand at writing a poem or a short story.
  • Check out the Spotify ‘Browse’ section or ask your friends for some new music inspiration and discover some new music.
  • Whether you have children or not, take some time to sit down and write a letter to your current/future or imagined child. Or even your younger self. What wisdom would you give them?

Home craft

  • Start a vegetable or flower garden. It doesn’t have to be big, you could just pop some herbs in planter boxes on your windowsill.
  • Ever wanted to be a culinary whizz? Master a particular dish? Cooking can be hugely meditative and creative, so why not spend a few hours whipping up a feast in the kitchen.
  • Pick a homesteading activity, like pickling or cheese-making and spend a few days learning ‘how-to’.
  • Gather together bits and pieces as well as letters and photos to create a family time capsule which you can open in five, ten or twenty years’ time!
  • Hand-make some gifts and cards for people’s birthday and Christmas presents.

Get active

  • Google a good walk or hike in your area, or plan a day trip to a hike that is a little further afield.
  • Start an exercise regime that you actually like! Find a style that suits you (yoga, running, kickboxing…) and commit to a 30 day challenge with yourself.
  • Learn the history of a particular area and then take yourself on a self-guided walking tour to explore the region and put a face to the facts.
  • Visit your local museum or art gallery.
  • Have a picnic and look up at the night sky. Can you name the stars/constellations you are looking at?
  • Grab a fishing rod and some bait and head off to the beach or a lake for an afternoon of fishing and relaxation.
  • Take your camera or phone camera out for a photographic walk and see the world from different angles.
  • Head down to your local oval and play a game of soccer or football with a friend. Or simply perfect your goal kicking skills solo.
  • Ever heard of geocaching? Google it. It’s a form of hike/treasure hunt that may just get you addicted to outdoor exploration!
  • Perfect your dance moves or learn a new style of dancing. There’s plenty of YouTube tutorials to pick from!

Get organised

  • Spring clean your email. Unsubscribe to all the junk you have piling up in your inbox, start folders for emails you want to save, and reply to all the emails you keep promising yourself you will look at ‘one day’.
  • Have a walk through your house with a notepad and pen in hand and write down everything you think needs doing, from cleaning the bathroom tiles to fixing that leaky kitchen tap.
  • Write a budget, get a filing system going for all your financial paperwork and generally get your financial act together.
  • Have a goal planning session by yourself or with your partner. Plan one, five and ten years in advance.
  • Spring clean your closet and sort your clothes into Keep, Donate and Sell piles.
  • Have you got collections of old photos yellowing in old albums? Use your spare time to scan them and back them up on your computer.
  • Spend some time rearranging your furniture. It’s incredible what a simple move of furniture can do for a space.

Join in!

  • Find a local club and join in. It could be a tennis club, a book club or even a bush regeneration club, whatever takes your fancy!
  • There’s few things that will give you as much reward as using your spare time to volunteer. Whether you’re interested in women’s welfare, animal rights, environmental issues or any other number of causes, you can rest assured that there will be a group serving that interest that you can volunteer with.
  • Spend an hour or so getting to know your neighbours. You may be surprised at how lovely they are, and you never know when you may need to borrow some milk, or have a friendly eye look over your place when you go away.

Relax and dream

  • Plan a holiday to somewhere you have always wanted to go.
  • Swap neck and shoulder massages with a friend or partner.
  • Pick a theme and have a film festival featuring movies around your theme.
  • Do a crossword puzzle, they’re free and can keep you occupied for hours!
General advice Student success
Open Colleges
By Open Colleges