(for those of you that are new: this is a continuation of a series we started back in November. It kind of got derailed over the holidays, so we’re finishing it up now. If you’re interested in catching up, you can read the earlier posts, which are Get Thee to Bed!, Plan Ahead, 3 Ways to be Efficient, and Cut Schedule Clutter.)
I know that sounds like a weird thing to say, but I firmly believe that there is a vast difference between true leisure and wasting time.
For instance, aimlessly surfing around the TV channels would qualify for wasting time in my book, whereas sitting down with my kids to watch a particular show or program together would not.
Surfing around the internet reading whatever happens to catch my eye is wasting time. Sitting down at my computer and writing emails or reading worthwhile blogs is not.
Reading gossip magazines and most women’s magazines is, in my book, a waste of time. Reading well-written books, though? I don’t count that as wasting time.
How do I determine what is a waste of leisure time and what is not?
Activities that are not in line with my ideas and beliefs and goals are a waste of time for me.
Because everyone’s ideas and goals are different, the way this plays out in my life is different than the way this would play out in yours, but here are two examples of how this works in my day-to-day life.
I want to spend my days and hours in a way that glorifies God. Among other things, this means that I want to grow in my walk with Him, and that I want to serve my family.
Because of that:
I hardly ever watch TV.
The reasons for this are many…much of what is available is not remotely helpful in my walk with God (quite the opposite, in fact), exposing myself to constant commercials isn’t good for me, and a lot of the fare that’s offered inspires discontent (Your house should be better! You should cook more fabulous meals! You should be more stylish! You should get plastic surgery!). And reality TV programs only serve to make me feel superior (“At least I didn’t have to wonder which of these 5 men was the father of my baby.” “I’m not as dumb/ugly/low-class/fat/lazy/spendy as those people.”).
Suffice it to say, most TV programming doesn’t fit in with my ideas, beliefs, and goals, and so for the most part, I’d count TV watching as a waste of my leisure time.
On the other hand, when Mr. FG and Joshua sit down to watch a hockey game together, I don’t think that’s a waste of time. They’re sharing an experience, rooting for a team together, enjoying each other’s company, and they don’t even have to watch commercials since they watch the games on a streaming service.
(as an aside, I firmly believe that one of the reasons I have time to read, exercise, bake, sew, blog, and do all the things I do is that I don’t watch TV. TV can be an enormous time suck and waste of time, so if you’re lacking time to do all the stuff you say you want to do, take a hard look at how much TV you watch.)
I try to read, and I try to read good stuff.
In my mind, reading good stuff definitely qualifies as an appropriate and helpful use of leisure time. I’m sure you know all the benefits of reading, so I won’t trot them out here.
But, some reading is a waste of time for me. Blogs, books, and magazines that keep me from growing in my walk with God, that encourage me to be selfish, that tempt me to discontent, or that glorify things that shouldn’t be glorified are a waste of time.
So, I try to read well-written material that encourages me in my mothering and wifing, that encourages me to grow spiritually, that help me appreciate the gospel more, that help me to serve my family better, and so on.
Romance novels? Nope. Jane Austen? Yes.
Women’s magazines (with their promise that I can be thin, gorgeous, stylish, rich, confident, mother-of-the-year, crafty, and have fabulous hair and a clutter-free, beautifully decorated, spacious home)? Nope. Cook’s Illustrated (which helps me serve my family and shop smarter)? Yes.
Gossip blogs? Nope. Blogs that inspire me to better and greater things? Yes.
I try to engage in activities that are not isolating.
I so understand the pull to hide or to not engage. I’m very capable of being social, yes, but I can also be very, very happy by myself for hours on end.
This is not entirely bad or wrong, but sometimes, this temptation comes from my selfish desires (I want to do what *I* want to do!) or my laziness (dealing with people is work!).
And, at least theoretically, one of my goals in life is to serve my family. Some alone time helps me to do that well (yay for my quiet mornings and for gym workouts!), but too much alone time doesn’t. Spending all my leisure time by myself is a waste because it doesn’t help me accomplish the goals I have for my life.
So, to that end, Mr. FG and I read through books together. We sing together as a family. We read the Bible and other books with the kids (recently, we read Dangerous Journey, The Prince’s Poison Cup, and The King Without a Shadow
and are now reading an Alistair McGrath children’s book on the Kindle, called The Chosen Ones .). We pray together. We play Scrabble (and CandyLand) together. When the weather is warmer, we bike/walk/rollerblade together and play catch.
And you know what? Every time I resist that urge to withdraw and do something by myself, I inevitably end up being happy that I did. Engaging takes more effort (plopping down in front of the computer is way easier than going outside to play catch!), but it’s very rewarding.
I’m not saying that I never do leisure activities on my own…I like to scrapbook (this does serve my family because my kids love to look through our scrapbooks), I like to sew (again, my sewing projects do usually serve my family, but sewing is something I do on my own), and I like to read. None of those activities are a waste of time in my mind, but I want to be careful not to spend all of my leisure time doing activities all by myself.
Be Intentional About Leisure
I touched on this a bit in an earlier paragraph, but wanted to say a bit more about it. If I am not intentional about how I spend my free time, I find myself wasting it. When I am not purposeful about how I spend my time, I often end up isolating myself.
That’s because wasting time is easy…if we don’t think much about it, that will probably be the default mode we slide into. So, if you want to redeem your leisure time and make it line up with your stated goals and beliefs, you’ll need to be a little more alert. Don’t just slide into the couch in front of the TV every night or mindlessly hop onto the internet. Instead, when you’ve got some leisure time in front of you, think about what you’re hoping to accomplish with your life, and find a leisure activity that’s in line with that goal and purpose.
Note: Some of the ideas in this post are gleaned from Jeff Purswell’s message on leisure from the Sanctifying the Ordinary series. All 4 messages in this series are available for free, and I highly recommend them. The audio on the leisure message is funky, but I think the content is so good, it’s worth persevering through the sound issues (try turning down your treble settings to make the annoying sound less noticeable).
I think that’s all I have to say about productivity for the time being, so this post officially concludes the series. I imagine that more productivity thoughts will occur to me over time, though, so occasional productivity posts may pop up here and there.
I hope this series has been helpful to you, and I hope that you’re able to take the principles contained in these posts and apply them to your own life.
Today’s 365 post: Play-Doh and Pennies
Joshua’s 365 post: Coloring