I’ve written before about how profitable it can be to use your free time to engage in money-making hobbies. But even if your hobbies don’t earn you money directly, you can still use them to develop useful skills, skills that may help you earn more down the road. From 1950, here’s a short film describing the advantages of making better use of leisure time:

Time. Leisure time. Did you ever stop to think how much leisure time you really have? Some of us put our leisure time to good use, and some of us — Ken Michaels, for example — spend most of our leisure time just moping.

“Moping” has many modern forms: idle television consumption, World of Warcraft, surfing the internet. There’s nothing wrong with doing things for pleasure on occasion, but I agree that everyone can profit from a productive hobby. The film points out that better use of leisure time offers three advantages:

  1. It’s a pleasant change from work. Some people have jobs they love, but most of us just tolerate work at best. A productive hobby can provide a sense of accomplishment while being enjoyable.
  2. It improves the body and mind. Whether you build a cabinet, knit a sweater, or write a blog entry, a productive hobby can help keep your mind sharp. Hiking or biking are great ways to stay physically fit.
  3. It provides long-range goals. In the film, Ken’s father plans to build furniture for his entire house. My wife likes to can fruits and vegetables, giving us inexpensive and healthy food year-round.

After watching this video, I began to wonder: how much leisure time do we have? I found an article on the number of hours worked throughout U.S. history. From table five, here’s how a typical American male household head spent his day in 1880 and in 1995:

Activity 1880 1995
Sleep 8 8
Meals and hygiene 2 2
Chores 2 2
Travel to and from work 1 1
Work 8.5 4.7
Illness .7 .5
Left over for leisure activities 1.8 5.8

In 1880, the average man worked 182,100 hours during his life and had only 43,800 leisure hours. In 1995, he worked 122,400 lifetime hours and had 176,100 hours at his disposal for leisure.

This article is fascinating, by the way, though you may have to wade through some dull spots to find the good stuff. Take a look at the postwar international comparisons to see how much time Americans spend working in comparison to other countries. (And while you’re at it, compare the workloads of men and women.) Or read the section on the shorter hours movement in the United States.