Making the most of spare time

i will not spend all my spare time on flickr

Tom Hodgkinson in today’s Style magazine in the Sunday Times raises some interesting challenges to the way we spend our spare time in the modern world. Are we making the most of it? Or are we squandering what little time we do have to ourselves, falling into the trappings of convenience?

His opening lines below and, as they did for me, may ring scarily true:

“What do you do in your spare time? Maybe you indulge your precious moments of leisure with a £5 bottle of Chilean Sauvignon blanc and a DVD box set of Mad Men or The Wire. Or do you find yourself in front of a Champions League game, or the Brits, or the latest episode of Glee, with your phone locked to Twitter in one hand, the remote control in the other? Or are you on Facebook status-updating, or discussing house prices and schools over a “kitchen supper”, or getting competitive over YouTube — who has the funniest clips? (I always feel a bit disappointed when other people don’t seem to find the clips I like as funny as I do. But anyway.) Perhaps you might go for a little eBay surfing or browsing on Net-a-porter. Later, you’ll nod off with your new Stieg Larsson book.

Yes, well, it’s the modern world, and I suppose we have to live with it. But couldn’t we be doing something more satisfying in our spare time?”

Ringing any bells? Tom offers a plethora of more worthwhile, simple pursuits that might offer more fruitful development of the mind and body, without huge expense or dramatic lifestyle change – such as learning to sing or sew, getting into the garden, learning a language or how to play an instrument, or simply drinking good wine.

I’m also reading Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows at the moment – a fascinating and worthwhile read about how the universal expansion of the internet into every facet of our daily lives is essentially re-shaping the way our brains work. We have smaller attention spans; we find it harder to get lost in lengthy pieces of text; we jump from one communication to another and depend on a constant feed of information to keep us occupied.

Perhaps we could do with putting down the mobile, switching off the TV and shutting down the inbox every now and then. Sometimes it’s tiny changes that can dramatically change our quality of life. Food for thought.

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