We live in a world where we are trying to go to a four day work week. We scoff at having to put in more than eight hours a day at a job. We want leisure and free time and the ability to enjoy ourselves.


That’s the new trend- work less, have more free time and you will be happy….

Here’s the thing though: I have read two books recently that say that being free to be might not be what we think it is…

A few months ago I read Hello, Habits: A minimalist’s Guide to a Better Life by Fumio Sasaki. In this book he cites a study conducted by the Japanese government.

The level of happiness is said to decrease when we have more than seven free hours in a day.

I know many of you are saying what luxury it would be to have seven free hours in a day…

I recently finished Happier Hour by Cassie Holmes PhD. Her team did a study of discretionary time, and they concluded that:

Regularly having less than two hours of discretionary time each day it too little. It causes stress and unhappiness…On the other hand…regularly having more than five hours of discretionary time in a day is too much, because it undermines one’s sense of purpose.

We need to find a balance of how much we work and do the necessary things in life, and how much free time we actually need…

As always it comes back to balance…

  1. 7 hours of work
  2. 1 hour commute

leaves 16 hours…

  1. 7 hours of sleep
  2. 1 hour of grooming
  3. 1 hour of household things

Leaves 7 hours…

Before you stop reading or scoff at me, saying things like this is a perfect world, and I’m not being realistic…

think about how you would feel if you had nothing to do and no where to go….for five days a week…

Does having unstructured time with no end in sight actually make you happier?

Maybe it does…

maybe you really do just want to sit and scroll the internet every day and this would make you happy…

But I really want you to think about it- does having a lot of free time make you happier or more content? Does having large, daily blocks of unstructured time give you what you need to feel good about yourself?


60 thoughts on “How Much Time Do You need to be Happy?

  1. In a word: NO. Ask a retired person why they may choose to work part-time again, or volunteer a few days per week, or purposefully set chores for specific days and times during the week, or embrace exercise routines and times, or jump into new hobbies, or taking classes, or expanding your reading list, or taking day trips, or…

    Not being made to think about time brings me happiness. Having too much time makes me bored. So I find purpose in other things and do them slowly- because I have all the time in the world 🙂

    Liked by 8 people

      1. Yes, the concept of having time doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. It means being able to choose what you do and when. I have days where there really is nothing going on. My walks are usually a lot longer on those days 😉

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I am much more productive…and happier…if I have a chunk of unstructured time, but not endless amounts. I can get lazy and complacent quickly — and I like the idea of challenging myself to see what I can get done in a set amount of time…and THEN relax. Sounds like you’ve read some interesting books on the topic, LA! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My barn days are much better that other days because I have a chunk of scheduled time. I think the reason I’m struggling with the time change and longer days is that my stretch of free time and alone time seem longer when it is still light outside

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think the answer to how much free time is the right amount is going to vary by individual. I stay busy in retirement. I have a list of routine things to accomplish each day, along with special things I need to attack that day. I rarely finish everything I want to do, but I appreciate the freedom to start my day when I want to and arrange my activities as I choose. I can’t imagine not having a plan for my day or sitting in front of the TV all day. Nothing I do is earthshakingly important, but I’m thankful for the time and ability to do them.

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      1. LA There is some truth to what you say. But, like everything else, it depends on the individual and what they do with their time. I retired after almost 36 years of teaching. In my mind years those work years are school years ( example: 2011-12 I believe was my last full school year that I taught before I retired).

        Anyhow, for several years after retiring I had a routine. I took art classes, walk away the pounds classes at the senior center, I went to lectures, set certain days a week to meet friends for lunch,, and took quite a few adult classes at local colleges (example: I took two classes on Sherlock Holmes. One was studying the best Sherlock on stage or on film, the other was on mysteries and the very first detective stories. ( I bet most people don’t know that Edgar Allan Poe wrote the very first modern detective story. The Murders in the Rue Morgue” with C Auguste Dupin).
        So until I was diagnosed with cancer I rejoiced in creating my own timeline and schedule. I loved not working in retirement. Well, I did volunteer for a non profit organization and taught spoken word poetry as well as writing lesson plans for the Foundation’s reading room and a poetry quite.

        Now my schedule is centered around doctors, treatment etc. so here is my opinion regarding your question. Time management is indeed important. But, that isn’t what makes one happy. It’s a combination of physical health and mental determination. Nobody is happy when they hurt, or are vomiting. So we CHOOSE the kind of experience we want. I hate having cancer. But I hate the thought of dying more. So I choose to be as happy as possible on good days. People are incredibly adaptable. My world is different from before I got sick. But living is truly a gift. So if i only have an hour here or there during the weeks after chemo that I feel ok, then I make that time as productive as possible.

        However, I was happy working too. And I’d stay late after work creating new lessons, new grants etc and instead of an 8 hour day it often extended to 12-14 hr days when I was writing grants.
        I think we choose to be happy or productive . Last week I had an extremely difficult time after chemo and felt awful for days on end. I lost ten pounds in a week because I couldn’t keep any food down.. I had to get hydrated, my oncologist called in a home care nurse for me who now checks on me several times at home the week after my 7 hour chemo treatments because they have gotten so aggressive. ( but they are working and bringing down my cancer antigen numbers. Yay!) And one day last week my sister came by and I cried for a solid hour with her. We are all human and do our best. But nobody is always happy. Life can get to us. But bored? I think That’s up to us.

        Today it rained all day. There was a quiet beauty in the sound of the rain coming down on my windows, and watching the quacking ducks gathering behind my condo trying their best to waddle /race and scarf down whatever goodies floated up from the puddles on the flooded grass. That was pretty entertaining.

        LA, I’ll tell you what I used to tell my students. “If you get bored it means you aren’t using your creativity. A bright, innovative person can invent activities to do, can conjure up stories to tell, or write, pictures to draw, poetry, songs, etc.
        Innovative human beings don’t often get bored. They invent wondrous things! “
        And on Fridays I’d have my students share their creations. I think It’s a mind set. It takes discipline and positive thinking, but we can all do it if we try.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. Lesley, I can tell you were a wonderful teacher and blessed many students. I’m sorry you are having such a struggle right now. Watching your numbers go in the right direction is encouraging. Praying for you as you do what you can each day with that great attitude. “Accomplishment” and “boredom” take on a whole new meaning in the middle of a health battle.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You have to be very disciplined with free time. Evidently my right hip decided it needed some free time to recover with the help of physical therapy. And it is working. I am lucky to have this option and be flexible with all. This is a luxury in today’s economy. As for my state of mind, the free time gave me much needed time for edits that my publisher is asking for. I am good. Balance. Sometimes something or someone outside your jurisdiction gives you what you need-in this case I needed time to heal and time to turn in edits.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s a horses for courses thing. Some people need a significant portion of structure in their daily life, others less so. I am in no way phased by the idea of finding myself with significantly more free time than I have now, but that’s because I have so many things I’m already trying to cram in to my limited free time. If I didn’t have plenty of things which interested me, or which I feel driven or motivated to do, then… actually, no, I can’t visualise that ever being the case. If I were in a position when I wasn’t financially or physically able to do things, then too much free time could certainly be dispiriting.

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  7. I’ve talked to multiple individuals who told me, they couldn’t wait until retirement…few weeks into it, and they were looking for some type of part time job, even if it was just driving the local JETS bus (shuttle service for retired/ handicapped people) I believe we are designed/ created to find enjoyment/ fulfillment in various types of “work” . Heck, 90% of the time when I do what I do to pay the bills it doesn’t feel like work. It gives me satisfaction, purpose, income, social interactions, etc. Too much down time makes my mind turn to mush. I have no intention of retiring in the traditional sense of the word. Cut back on hours, maybe change the scope of what type of projects I will do, etc. All I can do is speak for myself.

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  8. I think, even if we have free time, to gwt the most out of the time and to be happy, there needs to be some structure. But I find that with work or personal free time. I need to put some structure to my day or I end up loosing time

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Does having unstructured time with no end in sight actually make you happier? ABSOLUTELY. Once I hit upon this idea and could afford to live like that, much more content. It’s all about where you put your power, into yourself to find things to do or an employer who tells you what to do. I prefer relying on me.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great timing for this post. I have had a lot of unstructured time lately and I was nodding my head as I read your post. Ready to get back to some structure, to routines that I am used to. Yes, it’s been a break from work, but…there is something to be said for balance.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. People need structure and a reason to get out of bed in the morning. That’s why many retirees struggle, especially those who were very career-oriented. All of a sudden, you’ve got 2,500 hours or more a year to fill. That’s a lot of time. Too often, people focus on the money side of retirement and forget to create a plan for their time and their social connections.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. This is such an interesting topic as Larry and I are both currently retired and attempting to restructure our time differently. So far, I’ve never been bored. Larry is type A so if I’m sedentary for too long he’s dragging me out for a bike ride, hiking, or some new adventure. I like having uninterrupted time to write but I was horribly mistaken when I thought it would be easier to find time post retirement. My free time is minimal and almost always disrupted. Balance is a nice idea but I’m not sure it’s achievable. Hugs, C

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  13. Unstructured time = never ending covid lockdown. Although Pa lasted a month…and I spent a lot of time being creative so it was a win win. But unstructured also sounds like solitary confinement in prison.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Right now…70, kind of bored, sometimes feeling useless. See, work is a part of life. Not life. You have to learn to balance. More free time, less work. More home time, but to do what? How many people do you know who actually use free time productively, especially younger people. More free time! Great! More time to sit inside and play whoop whoop video games. Go to work. Contribute to society. Stir your mind and maybe get into some kind of physical shape.

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  15. Just because we are not at work, doesn’t mean this is our free time. We spend most of non-work, non-sleep time taking care of things: dinner, shopping, kids, parents, lawn, cleaning. Most of the days that leaves us just couple hours before bedtime that could be consider “free”

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    1. I’m not downplaying those who have responsibilities…it’s more about people who want a four hour work week….will that actually make them happier?


  16. I have a very busy and exacting schedule. At times I wish for a sedentary life. I do not know whether that will make me happy. Perhaps not. But at least given my nature of doing a variety of work it will surely give me some time to sit and think and watch. But at the same time I may get bored very soon. But this maddening rush of meeting deadlines is something I would like to get rid of. One should have a balance in life. Sleep time, cooking time, household chores time, leisure time, creativity time and also time to do something which makes you feel productive both financially as well as contributing back to society. Happiness does not mean doing nothing and being lazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s all about balance. But I think people assume having lots of free time and lots of money make you happy….not necessarily the case


  17. When you have free time, you have to know how to entertain yourself, and/or find meaningful ways to spend it. For some people, that’s easy, but for most people, it isn’t. I know I enjoy the occasional free day, but I don’t really enjoy having day after day with nothing to do. It’s a matter of balance, I think. Too much work and too little work can both be hard.

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  18. At one time I would have said yes…I would love to have hours of unstructured, unblocked time. That is, until I lost my job and was without work a good two months. It got boring real fast. I found myself not even doing productive things. Wasted a lot of time. I’m more fufilled working. However, I would love to do a 4-day work week. I’d even work 10 hours to get that extra day. I’d have one day for rest, one for cleaning/errands, and the other for something fun.

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  19. You strike a balance. Both my jobs are part-time, so they don’t expect a full day’s work, but when I’m fully immersed in a project my stopwatch is paused every hour to take a 20 minute break away from the computer. Taking breaks, or starting work later in the day has allowed time to be curious with that time and learn a multitude of things I’ve always wanted to learn. This makes me happy which spills over into my work and relationships. I can schedule a 4 day work week and have structured it as such before. It’s worth having that extra day if I’m in a creative zone, but I wonder if people will fill it up by continually doing?

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  20. Being a person who often gets bored on weekends (though not after buying a house; there are endless chores to keep me busy nowadays), count me as a proponent of Less Structured Time. I actually dread retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. I listened to a podcast that virtually said the same thing; it’s about balance. People think they want to live like they’re on vacation, but actually, they start to feel unfulfilled.

    I also think it’s a personal and personality thing. I need structure, but I also need to not have flexibility, so I can structure my day as I want, which leaves a few hours to do whatever I need/want (exercise, meditate, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

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