Just because you aren't actively working on something doesn't mean you can't be productive. Personal finance blog The Simple Dollar points out that there are two types of free time: leisure time, spent doing something worthwhile, and idle time, which is wasted.
Photo by Franck Mahon.
Trent at The Simple Dollar lays out an example that distinguishes between the two:
Let's say it's ten o'clock and Sarah and I have just watched an episode of a television series that we both enjoy. I'm feeling tired but, for some reason, I don't want to go to bed yet.
A few years ago, I would have channel-surfed or played a video game for the next hour. Now? I'll go prep tomorrow night's supper or do some laundry or something like that, pushing me to being tired enough for bed while—and this is key—getting something time-consuming out of the way for tomorrow.
This, of course, leaves tomorrow night more wide open than before, which gives me time to play tag in the yard with my son and daughter and a game with my wife after the kids are in bed.
Leisure time is time spent engaged in an activity for my own personal enjoyment or growth. Idle time, on the other hand, is time spent on whatever activity happens to be at hand. In short, I try to find room in my life for genuine leisure time and avoid idle time.
The key here is that idle time is time spent solely because you have "nothing else to do". There's nothing wrong with watching TV or playing video games, as long as you aren't doing it out of boredom. I personally set aside some time at night when I can plow my way through a good video game, or catch up on my favourite sitcoms with my neighbours. Idle time, though — the "I guess I'll see what's on TV because I'm bored" time — could be better spent getting ahead on things you need to do. If you have trouble deciding between the two, stick a dollar value on it and ask yourself whether it's really worth it. After all, laundry's pretty leisurely when you're doing it in your free time instead of when you absolutely have to because you have no clothes. Hit the link to read more.
Leisure Time, Not Idle Time [The Simple Dollar]