Take a Load Off: The Importance of Free Time

A cartoon toad telling you to be nice to yourself.

If you’re like me, you might come into college ready to be ~ productive ~ every waking second of every day. I deleted the games off of my phone (goodbye Candy Crush), set Screen Time limits on my social media, and swore off Netflix. All that time I wasted just hanging out and relaxing was over — I’m at Yale now. Yale students are supposed to work all day, then spend their free time engaging in some other productive activity like writing a symphony or solving climate change. My first week of classes, I used my free time to get ahead on my coursework, learn Korean on Duolingo, and study chess openings. I was feeling quite proud of myself; I was as productive as could be! It lasted about four days.

As the week went on, I enjoyed my “free” time less and less. Self-satisfaction quickly turned into boredom and exhaustion — listening to a Youtuber drone on about the risks of accepting the Queen’s Gambit isn’t exactly relaxing, at least to me. Candy Crush, Instagram, and Netflix were calling my name. I gave in before the week was over — after all, New Girl wasn’t going to finish itself. I gave myself my free time back, and found that I was a lot happier for it (go figure).

These past three school years, my free time has been just that: time to do whatever I want, not just “productive” activities. I play an embarrassing amount of Brawl Stars (a mobile game), and I scroll through TikTok each morning like it’s the New York Times. I’ve happily accepted that I need plenty of time throughout my day to just relax and turn my brain off.

I also try to adopt this on a larger scale, blocking off evenings or even days that are just for me. Some times are sacred — rain or shine, no matter how much work we have, my partner and I go out to a new restaurant every Friday night. Last month, I also took an entire Saturday to go on a road trip with some friends (pictured below). “Me time” is now a part of my daily, weekly, and monthly routines.

My friends and I on a road trip to Middletown, NY.
En route to Middletown, NY — don’t worry, this was taken at a very long red light.

Forcing yourself to be hyperproductive can seem like a good idea when you get to college, especially at a school like Yale. Like me, you might try to reinvent your work habits and maximize your productive potential. Like me, you also might be quickly reminded that you are in fact a human being, not a machine. While I’m at school, I make sure that I block out time every day to spend however I want. Even on my busiest days, I hold myself accountable to this promise because it’s an essential part of my wellbeing. As much as it pains me to say it, TikTok is an important part of my day.

My screen time statistics — I really do spend about an hour a day watching TikToks.
Not that you needed any proof, but I really do watch a lot of TikToks. Do me a favor and ignore those timestamps…

It’s also easy to feel like everyone else is working super hard, all day, every day — I promise that isn’t the case. We all take breaks. You might have passed me in the Pauli Murray dining hall every afternoon this week and thought, “Wow. That guy has his laptop out, his headphones on, and he looks super concentrated. I bet he’s hard at work on his midterms.” Well, I wasn’t. I was starting season 2 of The Sopranos, and I plan to finish it by the end of the week.