Eric Kraus


Valuable Things to Do With Your Free Time

Many will probably laugh at this title. Free time? Yes! In reality, we all have some amount of free time. It’s the time that isn’t dedicated to school, job, family, etc. We likely already use this time to catch up on our favorite TV show or go work out.

Using this free time to do something “valuable” can be an important part of staying mentally and physically strong. Often people think the only way to relax is to do “nothing”. But in fact, many people unwind by doing activities that other people would perceive as effort.

We first need to explore what “valuable” means to you. Are you the type of person that is a perpetual learner? Or, are you the type that is always overly stressed out? Based on the type of person you are, you will value an activity in your free time differently. The first personal would likely pick up a book to read, while the second person would rather have a massage to relax. Once you know what energizes you, you can use that to choose things that are rewarding for your body and mind.

Let’s look at some types of activities and examples in each.


Do something for your self. In this category, you should do things that are beneficial to both your mental and physical well-being. Examples of activities can be meditation, reading a new book, journaling, going for a walk, working out, etc. etc. The key is that you are doing it because it’s good for you (even though you may not necessarily enjoy it every time).


Learn something new. Don’t worry, this includes more than just reading. For example, you could watch a documentary/movie about something interesting. You could even search the internet for the latest fashion trends. Or maybe learn to knit. Of course, you can read too. The key is to learn something different (new) each time.


Do something for others. This could be stocking food at the local food shelf or even helping out at the humane society walking dogs. There are TONS of opportunities to help out around your community. If you are looking for some suggestions, take a look at VolunteerMatch.


Do something fun! Go for a bike ride. Paint a picture. It’s important to do something that you like and that is fun. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “good” for you, but it shouldn’t be harmful either. It must be enjoyable. If you’re stuck on ideas, check out some of these resources:


Do something for more money. If you are motivated by having some extra cash to spend, using your free time to work a second job can definitely be categorized as valuable. You don’t necessarily need to get a second full-time job either. There are lots of ways to make money from home (part-time). Check out a few of these inexpensive books which have a wealth of ideas to make some side-money at home.


Just by putting in a little thought, you’re likely already on the right track to making valuable use your time.

Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect

Any athlete will tell you, practicing more won’t necessarily make you any better. Just the same, working more hours won’t necessarily improve your quality: “Work smarter, not harder”, they say. Real quality comes from analyzing process, learning from and improving mistakes and rehearsing good behaviors. This is why athletes have a coach…and we need one in our personal lives too.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent.”

If there’s one single thing I retained from my high school years, it would be a quote from my band instructor, Mr. Robinson. He would drill into our heads a mantra that still has so much applicability today. Every day during practice he would tell us, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes permanent. What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.”

a lesson from golf

A golf swing is a great analogy for life. We all have personal flaws. For those who don’t hit the ball perfectly each time, you’re just like me. I have a very predictable, yet frustrating, slice off of the tee-box. Some tell me to just “play the slice”, but that’s really just reinforcing my handicap. Every spring, I am determined that I’ll fix the slice. So, I head to the driving range as soon as the snow thaws and buy 2 or 3 buckets of balls. I take a couple swings and see where I’m at. If not good, I change something (grip, stance, backswing, etc) and take a few more swings. After hundreds of balls and some of the goofiest grips, stances, etc, I still have the same slice. “Ah, better luck next year”, I say.

The reason why I can’t improve is pretty simple. Despite all my crazy adjustments, I am practicing bad form.

don’t practice bad habits

If you have bad habits, or habits that prevent you from achieving your goals, stop them as fast as you can. Every day that you practice those rituals, you further cement them into your routine. Introducing a new habit (e.g. working out) is hard, but stopping an existing habit (e.g. smoking) can be even harder. Even harder than making these changes is sometimes realizing what needs to be changed. This is why you need a coach.

get a coach

Before starting a self-improvement regimen, get a coach. All professional athletes have a coach. Why not have one for your personal life? An athlete may be excellent at what he/she does, but a coach offers a third-party perspective that cannot be seen by an athlete themselves. Sometimes being too close to the problem IS ‘the problem’. This is my golf swing problem. As much as I read about what I should do, I am too close to the problem. I need a coach.

For your personal life, a mentor or even a community of like-minded people can offer observations and help continually evolve your swing. Once you have a coach, you can start to experiment with guidance you receive.

experiment. but with guidance

There is no right way to improve your personal life. There is no single process, advice or phone app that can help every person. It’s very important to try a number of things and record how they work or don’t work. If you’re giving journaling a shot, this is an excellent writing prompt. Give each experiment at least 3-4 weeks to work. Don’t experiment with more than 1 or 2 things at a time. It will be hard to determine what is/isn’t working with too much going on. Report your learns back to your coach and repeat the feedback loop.

Perfect is not a reality that should be feasible

If you are investing in improving your life, you should already be the type of person that realizes it will never be “perfect”. And that’s ok.

What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.”

Self-improvement is a continuous cycle of goal setting, hard work, reflection and refined goal setting. “What you practice is equally as important as how often you practice it.” So getting as much feedback and self-reflection on the what part will pay dividends as you get started.

And, next year, I WILL fix that slice. I promise.