The Joys of Being Free On a Workday

When it comes to free time, I certainly enjoy my weekends and vacation time. But, there’s something particularly wonderful about being free (not working) in the middle of a workday that makes me positively giddy. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I count my lucky stars.

Recently, that happened when I was at an offsite legal conference that unexpectedly wrapped up early, giving me the choice of returning to the office or not. As email traffic was slow and the day was already nearly half over, I decided to call it a day and went home. So, instead of sitting in a conference room or in front my computer, I found myself jogging outside and then having daytime drinks with a friend.

The day brought me a lot of joy, more than I would normally feel if I were doing the same activities during normal free time on evenings or weekends. In analyzing why, the things that come to mind are:

  • Free time windfall: Going from expecting to work a full workday to having half of it off is a wonderful feeling
  • Feeling of slight illicitness: Knowing that I would usually be in the office, sitting in front of my computer, but instead doing the things that I wanted, while still collecting a paycheck, added to the pleasure of the day
  • Autonomy and doing what I want: Having time to do things that I would rather be doing than working, such as exercising or spending time with a friend, is a more enjoyable way to spend the day
  • Clear conscience: It helped that it was a particularly slow day for email traffic and I didn’t have a long to-do list, and I’m coming off of a particularly busy period of work, so there weren’t any time-sensitive obligations that were hanging over my head
  • Time arbitrage: Having free time when the world is working means there are generally shorter lines and smaller crowds when going places, and on this particular day, it meant a minimal wait at the restaurant I went to for an early dinner

While it was an unexpectedly satisfying day, it’s sad that most days aren’t like that. I wonder if quitting, and having time every day to do what I want, would lead to the same enjoyment of my free time. Or, whether the contrast of the work day contributes to the particular pleasure of free workdays. Is the bitter necessary to taste the sweet? Hopefully not.

The jury is out on what this means for my longer term plans, but suffice it to say that I enjoy those unexpected free days whenever they occur, and I think I could get used to it.

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