How Much Leisure Time We Really Have

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"I just can't find the time to—" fill in the blank. You've probably got a long list: write that novel, learn how to roller-skate, cook for yourself more, get out on the dating scene. It might surprise you, given the hectic pace of modern life, that you may have more free time than you think.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation has some new data that challenges old assumptions. It's just released a study finding that Americans have, on average, about five hours of free time every day. We might not be blamed for finding it fleeting, though — it turns out we're really bad at using it wisely. According to a press release, "Americans report they spend most of that time looking at screens (televisions, phones or other devices)."

The RAND study wants to show that Americans actually have a lot more time to exercise; "Men spent a mean of 6.6 percent of their free time on physical activity, while women spent a mean of 5 percent of their free time on physical activity." Of course, those numbers vary a lot when you break them down by racial or ethnic group, gender, and other demographic features.

It's also worth considering whether your free time is high quality. Constant interruptions mean you can't access the flow state that makes learning possible and makes you enjoy your activities. Though it is possible to accomplish a lot in small, digestible chunks of time, make sure you give yourself some continuous blocks in every day just for you and what you want. The knock-on benefits will make self-commitment all the more worth it.