“Free time” is not a term that comes to mind when people think about their workday. In fact, free time and work are two concepts that are about as far apart as one can get. But free time can provide surprising value to employees and companies alike. Scheduling some free time can help reduce stress and provide opportunities for creativity, long-term planning, and problem-solving. It’s time that should be more free form and less constrained by specific and immediate needs. Here are some tips for building an effective free time strategy.
As with any goal, spending time on free time isn’t likely to just happen on its own. It’s important to explicitly set aside some white space by blocking off the time on your calendar, for example. A good time might be at the very beginning of the workweek or on a typically quiet day.
Respect the Appointment
Unsurprisingly, it’s tempting to want to fill up your designated free time with other priorities, but if you truly want to get the benefits of scheduled free time, it’s essential to respect that time and avoid the temptation to sacrifice it when things get busy. Things will always get busy, meaning this time will always be sacrificed if that habit is allowed to take hold.
One of key benefits of free time at work is the opportunity for creative thinking. That benefit can easily be squandered if you don’t take notes on the great ideas that percolate. Keeping a living list of ideas and longer-term challenges can help focus and harness those creative energies.
Don’t Stretch the Concept
Free time at work is still work. It shouldn’t be distorted and turned into an opportunity to take a long lunch, sleep in, or scroll away on social media. The idea is to become more productive and more effective, not simply work less.
While it sounds counterintuitive, setting aside some “free time” during the workweek can actually help boost overall productivity. Carving out time that’s not earmarked for specific, short-term priorities allows people’s brains to think creatively, strategically, and long term. The key is to structure that time effectively and treat it like a legitimate requirement.