Paul implores us in Ephesians 5:16-17:
"Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil." (ESV)
From the list below. Where are you spending most of your free time?
Starting at the bottom, Entertainment Consumption involves activities such as watching videos, reading fiction, or playing video games. At this level, the individual is primarily entertaining themselves. As an example, according to a recent Limelight survey, Americans spend an average of almost 8 hours playing video games each week.
I define Educational Learning as spending your time educating yourself about a topic or issue with the purpose of wanting to better understand it. So while a 2018 Nielsen Report indicates that US adults spend nearly 6 hours of their day watching videos, some of those videos were educationally focused or Do It Yourself instruction clips. Consider Kahn Academy, a personalized learning dashboard, which has been translated into more than 36 languages, and used by millions of individuals each day to help them better understand math, science, and a variety of other topics. (Reading this blog post is an example of educational learning.)
Creative Engagement is taking the time to craft an item or collect information for personal use. For example, if you enjoy going for a walk and drawing sketches of the flowers you see along your path, this would be creative engagement. Or perhaps you watch a YouTube video about arranging dessert recipes and then you use this information to update your personal recipe book. Essentially, creative engagement means you are making something new that pleases or helps you in some way. (Writing out on a piece of paper how you typically spend your day, based on the time types presented in this blog post, would count as creative engagement.)
Social Contribution is at the top of the time use hierarchy. At this level, the individual is using her or his time to help or encourage others. Perhaps this is as simple as writing an email thanking someone for their help at a staff meeting. Or this could be traveling across town to do some yard work for an elderly widow. (Writing a comment to this blog post, sharing how someone can be successful at limiting their time on video games, would be an example of a social contribution.)
Ultimately, I'm not suggesting that we should never engage in entertainment consumption or that we should spend all of our efforts practicing social contribution. My hope is less ambitious than that. The first thing we should do is ask ourselves how we are using our time. Are we merely gobbling down large, greasy bites of reality TV, or are we offering something that can benefit others and which ultimately makes us healthier too? Second, we need to purposefully limit our entertainment sessions. As a university professor, I came to discover that too many of my students suffered because of video marathons that burned up precious study time. Finally, we should thoughtfully consider how we can transition from Learning to Engagement to Contribution. How can we make what we learn and what we create a blessing to others?
If you have any helpful ideas on how we can do any of these things, please share them in the comments section below.