Free time in this day and age is often hard to come by. With everything from work to appointments constantly demanding your time, it can often feel like it’s been months since you were able to stop and take a breather.
Then if you do get the chance to stop and take a deep breath, it’s not long before your phone starts ringing or emails start pouring in.
Being busy has become the norm, and if you do have any free time it doesn’t last long and gets filled up before you know it.
With a world full of people that think having any amount of free time is a bad thing and that every moment needs to be filled with something, we find ourselves getting busier and busier, but losing productivity as we go along.
Hold on, if I’m busy, doesn’t that mean I’m being productive and getting stuff done, too?
You can be busy without being productive. Jamming every moment of your day full of stuff just because you have time, doesn’t mean that’s necessarily the right thing to do. It is possible to spend an entire day being busy, yet getting nothing significant or important done.
That’s why I believe that free time is so important. I believe we should take a step back, maybe that means not volunteering this weekend or turning down that shift at work. That may mean bumping your coffee date to next week and taking a day this week to spend some time doing nothing.
Rejuvenating and re-energizing your body is important, and it doesn’t happen if we’re constantly busy.
Taking a day to just focus on yourself and your family is a great way to free up some time, and doing some small, productive things with that time can help you grow closer as a family and help everyone in the family enter tomorrow with a renewed sense of energy.
Rather than using your free time to veg out on the couch all day (though sometimes that’s definitely needed), you can fill it up with the things on the list below to help keep your days and free time from becoming too busy, but still being productive.
If you’re on the other end of the spectrum and you find yourself having too much free time, for whatever reason that may be, you can use this following list to fill your free time with productive things that will help you keep your free time from getting filled up, but also help you be productive with that time.
Whether you have a lot or just a little spare time in your day, there are a few things you can do to be more productive, happier, and healthier.
Put your spare time to work for you
I’ll admit, some days you do need to just sit your butt down on the couch and veg out. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, if you find you have enough spare time, it’s a good idea to use that time to do something productive with your day.
Here’s the catch:
Just because we filled our spare time with something, doesn’t mean we’re being productive. Like mentioned earlier, you can be busy without being productive. Our goal here is not to be busy, but rather to take our free time and do something productive with it. Even if that means spending just 5 minutes of our 1 hour of free time doing something productive.(THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. YOU CAN READ OUR DISCLOSURE POLICY HERE.)
30 easy and productive things to do with your free time
1. Read a book
Whether you have 5 minutes or an hour, picking up a good book and spending some time reading it is a great way to spend your free time in a productive way. If your whole family has a bit of spare time, rather than sitting down to watch TV challenge everyone to pick a book and spend a certain amount of time reading it.
Not convinced that reading is productive?
Reading reduces stress, stimulates the brain, provides you with knowledge, improves your memory, helps improve focus and concentration, creates better writing skills, and of course offers free entertainment for however long you choose.
You knew this one was going to be on the list… you were just really hoping it wouldn’t be. I was hoping it wouldn’t, anyway.
Exercising, even if it’s just a quick 5-minute walk down the road, is a fantastic way to use your free time. After you exercise you will feel so much more energized, healthy, and ready to face the rest of the day, rather than when you sit on the couch in front of the TV and end up feeling sluggish and lazy for the rest of the day.
Not only are you be being productive with your spare time when you exercise, but you will also be reaping the many, many benefits that come with exercising, including:
- Feeling happier
- Staying fit
- Increasing your energy
- Sleep better at night
- Increase brain health
- Healthier skin
If that’s not enough to get you out the door and on a brisk walk down the road, do it just because it will make you feel much better overall.
3. Do a bit of home organization
I have a very strong love/dislike relationship with home organization. I love having an organized home, but I don’t always love getting it to an organized state, especially when I have let my cleaning and organization duties go for too long and I’m faced with an extra messy house.
Nonetheless, even if you only have 10 minutes you can still use that small amount of time to do a quick tidy-up of your home.
Set a timer and make it a challenge for everyone in the house, the one with the cleanest room, or the one that has picked up and put away (in the correct spots) the most stuff by the time the timer goes off, is the winner.
Or just take everyone out for ice cream afterward, that’s always a good idea.
If your house is in dire need of a major cleaning and reorganizing, check out The Organized Home. This eCourse is taught by Hilary, who knows exactly what it feels like to be trapped in a home that is far from perfect.
Hilary doesn’t try to say she’s going to help you create the perfect home, because we all know the perfect home only lives in our dreams. But what Hilary does help you go through this course is create an organized life while keeping it a bit crazy and a whole lot of fun. If you’re interested, you can learn more here.
4. Pay bills
This definitely isn’t the most fun option on the list, but it’s something that has to be done from time to time, and if you’ve been falling behind lately use these couple minutes of free time that you have to catch up on some much-needed bill paying.
Paying late fees is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself from becoming debt free, and paying late fees all starts with forgetting, or putting off, paying your bills. Don’t let that happen, and don’t waste your hard-earned money on late fees.
Then, to treat yourself, take that money that you saved and go out and get yourself something small and affordable (like a coffee or donut).
5. Create free online accounts to get cash back
While we’re on the topic of finances, take a few minutes to set up some free online accounts that will end up earning you cash back over the next few months.
A few of my favorite sites to use to earn cash back are:
- Ebates.Ebates is an online shopping site that gives you a certain percentage of cash back on any items you buy online. You can shop through Ebates on sites like Amazon, JCPenney, eBay, Macey’s, Old Navy, and many more stores. (They offer over 2,000 online retailers).
If you do any amount of online shopping, you should definitely be using Ebates. It is free to sign up for and completely free to use, then once you start buying through Ebates and you reach the threshold for cash back money, they will send you a nice cheque in the mail and it will feel like it’s Christmas. (I use Ebates and the days that I get my cheques are happy days!).
You can learn more about Ebates here.
- Checkout 51. Checkout 51 is an app that you download onto your phone that offers cash back on certain grocery and household purchases.
Though the cashback doesn’t seem to add up as quickly as it does with Ebates, I love using Checkout 51 because it allows me to get cash back on the things that I don’t buy online.
You can view the offers of the week on the app, then once you’re home from the grocery store you can scan your receipt and select the offers that you want to redeem. The app will then see which offers you have selected, and check your receipt to be sure you purchased the item, then it will credit your account with the appropriate amount of cash back.
Checkout 51 is also completely free to sign up for and use.
Learn more about Checkout 51 here.
- Ibotta. I have never personally used Ibotta, but I have heard good things about them from other people. Like Checkout 51, they offer cash back on certain grocery purchases. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough about Ibotta to give you a review of what they offer as I have never used them, but if you’re interested in checking them out, you can do so here.
6. Take surveys
Taking online surveys is another productive thing that you can do with your spare time. Taking online surveys is a great way to use your spare time to earn some extra cash.
Sites like Survey Junkie and Swagbucks offer money (or gift cards) in exchange for you completing surveys on their sites.
They are free to use, and you can create an account and do a few surveys, wait until you have more spare time, and do some more surveys.
7. Learn a new hobby
Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to crochet have never had time to. Maybe you’ve been wanting to learn how to ballroom dance (Youtube is a great teacher), or maybe you’ve wanted to learn a new card game or trick.
Use this free time to pick up a new hobby, even if it’s something you’ve always wanted to try but will probably never try again after today. Go ahead and do that one thing you’ve always wanted to do.
8. Get crafty
Get crafty by picking up a paintbrush, pencil, sewing needle, or crochet hook and spend some time doing something you enjoy.
Does it feel like you haven’t done something for yourself that you enjoy in a really long time? Go ahead and give yourself permission to do that thing now.
Don’t feel bad for taking some you time. You’ve been busy, you deserve some you time.
9. Cook or bake
Go ahead and pick up your trusty old cookbook, or find a new recipe online and bake or cook something new (or old).
This is a great way to waste time in a productive way, and you’ll end up with a delicious treat to munch on when you’re finished.
Even if you’ve never been much of a baker or cooker, try your hand at it and see if it’s something you enjoy. If you don’t end up enjoying it, you don’t have to do it again, but it doesn’t hurt to try.
10. Play cards
Even if you’re by yourself you can learn a new card game to play. Solitaire is just one of the many card games that you can play by yourself.
Playing cards won’t just help you pass the time, it also exercises your brain to keep it sharp and help you concentrate.
11. Plan a coffee date with an old or new friend
Do you have that one person that you always say “we should really go out for lunch sometime!” but never go out with?
Or, maybe you met someone new this week and thought to yourself that you’d like to get to know them better – what better time to reach out to them than now?
You don’t have to have them over for coffee right now if you want to use your free time to just relax, but you can take this time to call them and set a coffee date for a couple days from now.
12. Learn more about something that interests you
It may be just a hobby, or maybe it’s something that you just learned about and it piqued your interest. Take some time now to research it, find books at the library on it, and find articles online to learn more about something that interests you.
13. Write a letter
When’s the last time you picked up a pencil and paper and wrote an old-fashioned letter?
Pick someone in your family or a friend who you know would love to get something in the mail, then write them a letter.
If it’s been a while since you’ve talked to this person take time to recap what has been happening in your life since you last talked to each other, then put it in an envelope with a stamp and mail it off.
14. Sort your paper clutter
Paper clutter can easily become overwhelming when it gets left undealt with for long periods of time.
It doesn’t take long for our paper clutter to get out of control – if I just leave the mail sitting on the table for anything over two days it seems to become a mountain of papers and flyers.
The same goes for bills, receipts, and other paper in our house.
If the paper clutter in your house is a bit out of control, use your spare time to sort through your papers and create a way to keep these papers organized.
15. Set goals
If you’re someone who likes to set and achieve goals, grab a notebook and set a few goals. Set easy goals and goals that seem next to impossible.
Set both long term and short-term goals. Goals you would like to achieve within the next week and month, and goals that you would like to achieve within the next 1 – 5 years.
After you set those goals, write down the action steps that you need to take to work towards achieving those goals.
Scrapbooking can be extremely expensive if you buy all the bells and whistles that come along with scrapbooking (like ready-made scrapbooks where all you have to do is insert pictures). To make scrapbooking more affordable, do it yourself.
Use stuff like construction paper and other crafting supplies that you have at home to make your scrapbooking decorations, rather than spending a fortune on them at the store.
You can also cut pictures out of a magazine or find printable pictures online for your scrapbook.
17. Learn paper mache
After you sort through all the paper clutter in your house, you’re likely going to have a lot of papers and flyers to throw out. Rather than tossing them in the garbage, learn some simple paper mache on Youtube to recycle all that old paper that you were just going to throw away and make something creative out of it.
18. Take an online course
If you want to increase your knowledge in a particular area, but don’t feel like leaving the house to do so, do a quick Google search of online courses on the particular subject you want to learn more about.
You may even be able to find a few free online courses to get you started.
19. Learn how to meal plan and prep
Meal planning and prepping probably isn’t something that you get excited about (I do!), but it can save you so much time and money over time that it is worth learning, even if you really don’t want to.
Who knows, if you give it a try you might realize that it really isn’t as bad as you once thought it was. Then, when you go grocery shopping and realize how much money you saved, there’s a good chance you’ll be hooked.
I love meal planning and am a huge advocate of it. If you’re interested in meal planning you can learn more here.
20. Return phone calls
Do you have a list of people you need to call back, but haven’t been able to find time to lately? Grab your list along with a pen and paper, to write down any important notes, and return some phone calls.
21. Clean up your inbox
Use this spare time to do a thorough sweep of your inbox. Emails inboxes can become cluttered with an overwhelming amount of sale emails and newsletters over time.
Create folders and sort all your emails into the appropriate folders, then unsubscribe from any emails that you no longer wish to receive.
Our online lives can become so cluttered, doing this will help you create a bit of order in your online presence.
22. Put important dates on the calendar
Maybe someone recently got married but you haven’t had a chance to put their anniversary on your calendar yet, or maybe there’s a new member of your family and you haven’t gotten a chance to put their birthday on the calendar just yet.
This is also a good time to go through your entire calendar. Whiteout any dates or notes that you no longer need, add any important birthdays, anniversaries, and other events that you need to keep track of, too.
23. Weed the garden
I find weeding the garden such a relaxing way to clear my head. If you have a garden, head outside for some time by yourself and get all those pesky weeds out of your garden.
If you don’t have a garden yet but want one, you can use this time to create a garden plot or plan where you want your future garden to go, how big it will be, if you will make it in raised beds or on the ground, and what kind of stuff you will plant in your garden.
24. Spend some “you” time
Spend your spare time doing something you enjoy, whether that be an at-home spa day that you give to yourself, watching a movie you’ve been wanting to watch for some time, or just sitting and relaxing.
Whatever it is that you enjoy doing and you find relaxing, do that, and don’t worry about the other pressing demands of the day for now.
25. Take out the recycling
If you have a big pile of recycling in your house or garage, you could use these few minutes to bring it in to the bottle depot and earn some money.
Then, you could go out for a quick coffee with that money you just made from the recycling, or save it for a rainy day.
26. Learn origami
Years ago I tried my hand at some origami, and I loved it. Though I’m not the most crafty or artsy person around, I still enjoyed getting my origami on.
If you want to learn how to do origami you don’t have to go out and buy some expensive kit from the get-go. Instead, do a quick Google or Youtube search on learning how to do origami and get started with paper that you have laying around the house.
27. Start a challenge
Starting a challenge is a great way to be productive with your spare time, but keep in mind that you’re going to have to find ways to fit that challenge into your everyday life from today on out until you’re finished the challenge.
You could choose something like a decluttering challenge (like this one) to do over the span of a few days, or you could choose a reading challenge or any other type of challenge that fits your personality.
28. Start dinner prep
Whatever time of day it is, if you are wondering what to do with your free time, starting dinner prep is always a good use of your time.
Even if you had plans of just making frozen pizza for dinner tonight, do a quick search on Pinterest or Google for some simple homemade dinner recipes and make a nice homemade dinner.
Even if you won’t have a whole lot of time at suppertime to make supper, you can still make a homemade dinner by starting the meal prep now. Prep everything you can right now – cook the meat, chop the veggies and make the salad, make the garlic bread, then when suppertime comes around all you have left to do is throw everything together and warm it up.
29. Declutter your house
I get that decluttering isn’t for everyone, and some people may think you need to set aside a solid week to declutter, but that’s not always the case.
If you wanted to do a thorough declutter of your house chances are that, yes, you would need to set aside a lot more time than just 10 minutes. But, if 10 minutes is all you have right now and you see a particular room or area in your house that needs tending to, take that time and work as fast as you can to get everything back in its correct place.
Make sure you have a “donate” bin with you at all times. Chances are, you’re going to come across at least a few things that you no longer need and could give away.
30. Start a blog
Of course I had to add this one to the list, since my blog got started while I had some spare time, and ended up growing to my full-time job from there.
Starting a blog, whether for a hobby or with intentions of making an income from it, can be an awesome way to use up your free time throughout the next while.
Who knows – you might start your blog and decide you want to give it your all and make it your main stream of income so you can work from home, or you may just want to start a blog for fun – either way, blogging is a great way to spend your time being productive.
You can start a blog for free on sites like Blogger and WordPress.com, but, if you want something that you can eventually make money off of with more customization options, you can use a site like SiteGround to start a blog (you can get hosting for less than $4 a month). There are many other hosting sites like SiteGround that you can certainly look into and compare prices – but SiteGround is the one I use and highly recommend.