The Folly of Spare Time

Alexis Haselberger
4 min readApr 3, 2023
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Recently a friend left me a message. We’d been playing phone tag for days. In his message he apologized and made the offhand comment that he “doesn’t have any spare time”. (And forgive me if you’re reading this and you know I’m talking about you.)

But his comment made me think.

Who among us has “spare time”?

No one.

Now, I know what my friend meant. This phrase was just shorthand. He meant to convey that he’s busy and that he feels the majority of his time is going towards obligations.

But how we spend our time, and how we talk about our time, affects our reality.

If you’re waiting for spare time to do the things that are important to you. Then you may well be waiting your whole life.

“Spare time” doesn’t exist. So, it’s time to stop waiting for it to show up.

There’s this quote that I have loved since the moment I saw it because it rings so true.:

So yeah, things aren’t going to just slow down. “Spare time” isn’t going to just appear.

But, just because “spare time” doesn’t exist, does that mean you’re shackled to a lifetime of hard work and no fun?

Of course not.

It just means that it’s up to you.

It’s up to you to make decisions about how you spend your time.

It’s up to you to decide if the things you wish you had time for, are things you’re actually willing to make time for.

I hear the following a lot:

  • “I’d exercise more…if only I had the time.”
  • “I’d read more…if only I had the time.”
  • “I’d play more…if only I had the time.”

So, here’s my question:

Are you going to wait for that time to arrive? Or are you going to make the time to do things you enjoy, the things you’d do “if you had time”.

The next time you tell yourself you’ll delay happiness until you have time to experience things that make you happy, I want you to ask yourself: “Is there any way that I can make the time for this right now?’

Someday may never come. But we’re here right now.

Does this mean you won’t have to make hard choices?

Nope, it most certainly does not.

Unfortunately, we can’t make more time. We’re dealt the time we’ve got. And that’s 24 hours a day.

Often, you get stuck thinking you can do it all and feeling bad when you can’t.

But, you can’t do it all.

At least not right now.

So let’s just come to terms with that reality, so we can move into action.

If you want to make time for the stuff that really matters, the stuff that makes you feel like you’ve had a good day, an enjoyable day, you may have to give up some other things.

Here are some examples of the tradeoffs I make in my own life:

  • It’s my kids’ responsibility to clean the kitchen. Is it up to my cleanliness standards? Not usually. But if I get to watch some TV and crochet in the evening instead of having a spotless kitchen, that’s what I choose.
  • I could be available to my clients on evenings and weekends. And this might make things easier for them. But I’d be giving up the value that I get from disconnecting from work on evenings and weekends. And not only do I enjoy being disconnected, I think it makes me better at my job.
  • I could voluteer every time I’m asked by my kids’ schools. But if I did so, I’d have a lot less time for reading, cooking, creocheting and the other things I enjoy. I do volunteer. Just not every time. Not even most of the time. I can’t give all my time to others and still expect to have time for me.

And to that end, here’s another quote that hit me hard:

It’s up to you to decide how you’ll spend the most valuable resource you have. Your time.

If not now, when?

Originally published at on April 3, 2023.