The peril of having time

When you're busy time suddenly starts to seem more valuable. The big looming deadline or barely manageable workload makes every second seem important. Any interstitial preperatory rituals go out the window. Anything that's not relevant or necessary gets cut because you just don't have time. You might not get many chances to unwind or relax, so whatever there is had better be super relaxing. Free time becomes the most valuable commodity you can find, and you fantasize about how you're going to spend all of it when the crunch is over.

Then your time frees up again and what happens? Freedom reigns, the days stretch out ahead of you, and you've got nothing but time. Suddenly, all that time stops seeming so valuable. Whether or not you're doing things efficiently isn't so relevant when you have lots of time to do them in anyway. Fifteen glorious minutes stolen away with a coffee and a sunset gives way to hours of some leisure-like activity that isn't really that fun. You go from free time to spare time, and finally to wasting time, a notion that would have been unthinkable not so long ago.

But the funny thing is, your time doesn't really change in value just because you're more or less busy. Sure, it may seem locally scarce, but you're still provided with 24 hours of it every day, and you can still turn it into money or fun or creative output at a given rate. An hour's worth of reading is always going to be an hour's worth of reading, whether the surrounding hours are filled with work or nothing at all. Pending some kind of immortality breakthrough, there are a fixed number of total hours assigned to your life, you can spend them how you choose, and being busy or not busy doesn't really change that.

So should you act like you're busy all the time? Not exactly. When you're busy you also get stressed, cut corners, make bad decisions, and generally hurt your creativity. I'm not an advocate for being busy, but the one aspect I think is good is the appreciation for the value of time. It's that appreciation that I think is worth carrying with you. If you wouldn't do something when time is scarce, maybe it's not worth doing when time is plentiful either.