Sunday 6 May 2012

The fictional notion of "free time"

To me, there's no such thing as "free time", only "me time". My life is divided up into a couple of different segments, let me show you what I'm talking about.

* Percentages are approximate only

These pie charts are a very rough estimate of my time distribution, it varies (especially on weekends), but this is approximately how it works. I'm not complaining, I'm happy enough with this structure, but I'm using it to highlight how my time is currently spent.

The broad category of "me time" includes, but is not limited to:

  • Toilet breaks
  • Finding a way to feed myself
  • Smoke breaks
  • Reading books
  • Watching movies
  • Watching TV
  • Playing video games
  • Listening to music
  • Blogging
  • Checking personal emails
  • Catching up on events with Facebook
  • Calling or being called my family and friends to catch up

I'm not trying to come across as a guy that's got it hard, I really haven't. I do alright, and I'm at peace with this arrangement.

Back in my former work roles, I had the opportunity many times to participate in overtime. I.e. Attending work in extra-curricular hours for twice the rate that I'm normally afforded per hour. In the 7 years I had this option available to me, I might have clocked up an additional 10 hours of rostered time.

Why is this? Because, I value my "me time" at more than twice the rate that work pays me for. It's a little bit selfish, I know. I'll allow the bills to pile up around me while I waste my potentially productive hours playing video games and watching TV. Why do I allow this to happen? Because it keeps me sane.
Ever had a friend insist that you watch a YouTube clip or read an article?

You'll navigate to the page, see that it's 10 minutes long and internally groan to yourself. You can't not watch  or read it, as you're going to be issued a pop quiz on the contents, so you're forced to immediately take 10 minutes out of your day to fulfill the requirement of one of the basic rights of a being someone's friend. This is part of the package, however. If you elect to have friends, this is mandatory. I am okay with this, and I accept it as part of the social convention.

Ever had a friend insist that you must see this movie?

This is a little bit more of a tedious exercise. Your friend will see this "amazing" movie, and insist that you watch it. One and a half to three bloody hours you're going to need to cut into your "me time" over your weekend to watch a film that you may not even like.

 Even if you do like it, if you're anything like me you aren't necessarily in the mood to watch a movie when the pressure is applied. Sometimes I'm in the mood to play games, read, blog, etc. If I am in the mood to watch a movie, I might be feeling up for a comedy, or drama, or action... but not the horror movie that my friend has suggested.

But, again, I accept this responsibility also. It is again a mandatory requirement, and fulfill like a good friend I shall.

The reason for all of this lead-up is to bring up the convention of recommending that I read a particular book.

No, I will not read your book.

Time and time again, I have allowed myself to fall into the trap of accepting a book that somebody insists that I read... but no longer! No longer will I willingly accept your thinly veiled attempt to cut so very deeply into my "me time". I know what you're up to.

Up with this, I will not put!A book is an incredible investment of time, and I've already got a monstrous backlog of books that I've promised myself I'd read at some point.

Why on earth should your book be allowed to be promoted to the top of that list? Not only is there the expectation that I'll have to take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours out of my "me time" to read the bloody thing, but it's also on the implied time limit of borrowing!

Every one says, "Oh no, don't worry about it. Borrow it for as long as you want.", but they're full of it. One month down the track, they'll be all over you for it. "So, uh, have you had a chance to read that book I lent you?

You're not doing me a favour, buddy.

This puts me in an awkward position, as at this point I generally actually haven't read the book. I'm sure it's great, and I'm sure I'll love it, but man. I've got barely enough "me time" as it is!

So, what do I do? Do I:

  1. Quickly, and begrudgingly, read the book to remove it as an obstacle?
  2. Return the book without reading it, making up some bullcrap excuse about "not having time" or some personal drama that prevented me from doing it?
  3. Tell them the truth and say that I couldn't be arsed to cut into my "me time" as I've already planned out a bunch of things more awesome than reading their book?
  4. Skim a couple of articles online to bone up on the content of the story and pretend that I read it, returning it, silently praying that they don't ask me any specifics that I will be stuck for an answer for?
I usually decide on doing the latter, for two reasons:

  • I really can't be arsed reading it, 'cause I prefer doing other things than reading the hottest book on Oprah's reading list
  • Don't tell me why, but for some reason I actually care about your feelings and don't want to hurt the poor fragile little things
I am changing my ways, though. While I'd love to come clean and just tell you that I haven't got "free time", only "me time" and I'm not cutting into that for 4-10 hours, I'll probably just make up an excuse that will prevent me from borrowing it in the first place from now on.

To prepare you for the sorts of excuses you might here, here are a couple of possibilities:
  • Ignoring the rigorous government warnings, I stared at the sun during the last solar eclipse and am now blind, preventing me from reading your book.
  • I have joined a dangerous cult (Scientology springs to mind, I might mix it up) that forbids the ingestion of knowledge and therefore cannot read as I'm not permitted to learn anymore
  • Already read it, and thought is was so bad that I've repressed the memory through weeks of intensive hypnotherapy.
  • I have a unique form of Bibliophobia, which permits me to read only books that I choose but will both sweat and cry uncontrollably if I attempt to read yours. If you press the issue, I may become violent.


  1. BAM.. 5 minutes of 'me' time spent reading this article.. grumble grumble.. :)

    1. Have you read that book I lent you yet? It's been over a month now...

  2. But I still insist you get your head stuck into "The Eye of the World" by Robert Jordan, it's just that good -- I'll even buy you your very own copy :P

    1. I'm sorry, my bibliophobia coupled with my solar elypsal blindness makes me a perfect candidate for Scientology, so I will need to repress your suggestion lest I become violent.

  3. Nice post thanks for sharing.