Make me a master of (free) time!
September 10, 2012 12:24 PM   Subscribe

How do I make the best use of my free time?

I'll have a surplus of the stuff soon and I don't want to spend it all on my ass watching TV and playing video games.

Context, caveats, etc, etc:

- In a couple weeks my wife goes back to working the night shift. I'll be watching my 10-month old daughter in the evenings.
- Her bed time is 8:30. My wife gets home at 11:30. Factor in an evening nap, I'm looking at four hours or so of free times all to myself. I just finished my masters in June, so I'm not used to having any of this free time stuff. I need productive ways to spend my time!

- Activities need to be things I can do at home and with relative quiet
- I'm an industrious (enough) writer and learner of language; I already have an hour of writing and language study factored in on alternating days (setting my goals into the realm of "doable") so I've got that covered.
- I already have exercise in my schedule, so that's not necessary either.

- I'd love to use this time to learn a new skill of some kind, but I'm completely flummoxed as to what skill I should learn or where I should start. It doesn't have to be profitable or marketable.
- Is it possible to do some sort of volunteer work from home? If I can use this time to help people, that'd be great too!

- If you have suggestions, please, please provide some information on how to start. If you have firsthand stories of how you used your free time stuck at home to do awesome things, I'd love to hear them.

posted by Tevin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I hate to state the obvious, but often people mistake "free time" with FUN TIME. I'm talking about household chores such as cleaning the house, doing laundry and dishes. While it's not fun stuff, these are all things that need to get done at some point by either you or your wife when one of you is not working or sleeping or taking care of the baby.
posted by HeyAllie at 12:31 PM on September 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

Do you have any interest in something like an arduino? My brother hadn't programmed or anything since high school, but has recently gotten into playing with one with his 10 year old. Bonus: useful skills.
posted by ldthomps at 12:32 PM on September 10, 2012

Have you considered playing with Coursera or one of the other millions of Khan Academy clones starting up these days?
posted by Wretch729 at 12:34 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

HeyAllie - Of course! I should have said it above, but it's a given that the appropriate amount of time will be given to make sure the house is in order. Still, with a small place it doesn't take too long since my wife and I are both sort-of neat freaks and keep up with cleaning so it's never out of control.
posted by Tevin at 12:36 PM on September 10, 2012

Learn a relatively quiet musical instrument. Acoustic guitar or a piano keyboard would work.
posted by rocket88 at 12:36 PM on September 10, 2012

Idthomps and Wretch729 Those both sound pretty interesting but I'm not sure where to start!

Idthomps: I've heard of arduino, but I have no idea where to start! I'm a complete naif with all things electrical and programming so I'd be starting from scratch. Is there a cool 'beginners course' you can recommend? Scanning the 'Learning' page, I was completely lost ...I'm really starting from scratch, but it's very intriguing.

Wretch729: Do you have any specific courses to recommend? I'm versed well enough in the humanities that I could probably find some stuff to interest me, but where would I start for something in, say, STEM fields?
posted by Tevin at 12:44 PM on September 10, 2012

I don't know Coursera well enough to make specific recommendations. I secretly wish everyone in the country was forced to take statistics classes so maybe start there? But that's purely personal preference.

Incidentally-- If, as your profile implies, you live in the Seattle area there must be a hackerspace full of geeks willing to help you learn about arduino somewhere nearby.
posted by Wretch729 at 1:25 PM on September 10, 2012

Between now and November 6th, I am sure there are some organizations that would appreciate an hour or two of your time contacting people and reminding them that voting is an important thing. I prefer to focus on local candidates and races, but I'm sure someone will take you up on it if you offer.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 4:53 PM on September 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Is there anything you can do in terms of professional and career development? Learning new skills, networking, catching up on email, taking on additional projects, reading industry news, starting an industry-related blog, joining the board of an organization or non-profit related to your field.

(Assuming you are not paid hourly and have enough interest in your career/work/professional field that you would want to work on it at night).

You could cook additional meals for nights that are busy and to take to lunch, esp. things that can be frozen (lasagnas, stews).

Call old friends, write letters and emails. Invite a friend or two over for a quiet drink or board game.

House projects - painting walls, hanging new drapes, etc.

Learn to play the guitar.

Meditate. is volunteer work from home!
posted by amaire at 5:24 PM on September 10, 2012

Plant and tend a garden! (Or plants in pots).
posted by amaire at 5:27 PM on September 10, 2012

Specific suggestions for learning to code:
Learn Python the Hard Way (self-paced)

Interactive Programming in Python on Coursera (self-paced)

Intro to CS on Khan Academy (doesn't start till October 15)
I've used LPTHW and I really liked it. I already knew how to code, but it's a popular starting point for beginners too. I haven't taken the other two courses, but I've heard them recommended by people I trust, and they look pretty good to me from the descriptions.
posted by tantivy at 6:28 PM on September 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm taking a few Coursera classes now (finance and statistics, which is just starting) and I would recommend it. Free, easy to use and easy to get help in the forums. And many of them will send you a certificate if you achieve a passable grade. Such a cool development.
posted by SpicyMustard at 7:37 PM on September 10, 2012

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