Yale University

Working at Yale

Well-Being: Choosing free time

There may be walking tours, golf course lunches and gardening in your future

For many, free time seems to be a mythical concept – we talk about it and we wish for it, yet it may prove elusive, no matter how much we need it. Some may even find themselves too busy to ponder how they will find free time; many move from task to task, commitment to commitment, with little time for self-reflection or relaxation. “Finding Free Time,” an article in the online library on the website of Magellan, Yale’s Counseling and Support Services provider (1-800-327-9240), challenges the idea that people simply have no free time. It states that we have more time than we think, but changes in mentality and active steps to inventory our time are needed to allow for leisure.

Finding free time is often a matter of choice; we choose how we spend those discretionary moments, but we must also choose to allow ourselves down time. Though it is common for people to keep busy as a convenient way to avoid facing the fact that we all need to take a breather every once in a while, deliberately allotting free time into your schedule is necessary to relieve stress, fulfill personal needs, and recharge to ensure higher productivity overall. Activities pursued during your free time should be enriching, or at least stimulating. According to the article, it is imperative that you “consider creative renewal as vital to your existence, not a luxury.” Schedule pockets of free time into your daily calendar and consistently log your daily activities to understand and prioritize the way you spend your time.

To support your decision to choose free time, you can borrow these books from the WorkLife library by emailing worklife@yale.edu: “Alter Your Life: Overbooked? Overworked? Overwhelmed?” By Dr. Kathleen Hall; “The 10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management: Proven Strategies for Increased Productivity and Inner Peace” by Hyrum W. Smith; “Work + Life: Finding the Fit That’s Right for You” by Cali Williams Yost.

Once you have found your free time, there are creative and novel ways to take advantage of it, right here on the Yale campus. Campus walking tours depart from the Visitor Center (149 Elm Street) Monday to Friday at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., and weekends at 1:30 p.m. The tours cover the 300-year history and gothic architecture of the university, including the world’s second-largest academic library system, home to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where you can see one of the world’s last remaining copies of the Gutenberg Bible. Staff can also arrange special group tours of ten or more people, for a $40 group fee. Other tour routes highlight the architecture at Yale, and the public art offerings on campus by famed artists Maya Lin and Claes Oldenburg, just to name a few.

If you prefer to spend your leisure time in a more active way, consider hitting a few rounds of golf at the Yale Golf Course. Voted the top college golf course in America, The Course at Yale allows staff and faculty to make tee times 4 days in advance, features a Pro Shop, and even offers lessons (for a fee). The course restaurant, Widdy’s, can be a perfect place to grab lunch with your colleagues, who might be also be interested in hitting some golf balls at the range with a $5 token that they can purchase with a Yale ID in the Pro Shop.

Another relaxing option can be found on the Yale Farm, which hosts volunteer workdays every Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. On Friday, the workday ends with freshly baked pizza from the farm’s hearth ovens. No gardening experience is required, and the Yale Shuttle’s Blue and Green lines drop off near the Farm. Visitors can learn about soil quality and testing, optimal planting times, and organic mulching. In fact, on Friday, April 29, from 1-2 p.m., Matt Debacco from the University of Connecticut Soil Testing Lab, will come to give a short talk on urban soil health and demonstrate some soil testing techniques. 

When it comes to spending time in your own garden, Yale Farm Manager and Educator Daniel MacPhee has these tips:

"Test your soil
UConn and UMass soil testing labs do a good job.  They will tell you about the level of organic matter and important nutrients, and also about any lead contamination concerns.  Join us for the soil testing discussion and sampling workshop on April 29.
Be patient!
Don’t put tender summer crops out too early—they will suffer in the cold wet soil and disappoint you with reduced yields and increased disease problems.  A tomato seedling planted after Memorial Day might be slightly later to fruit than one planted a month earlier, but it will reward you with more tomatoes and a much longer season of production.  If you want to plant early, go for cool weather crops like peas, fava beans, beets, kale, or lettuces.

Use organic mulches
Mulching around your crop plants helps protect your garden soil from erosion, blocks weed competition, and helps to keep your soil moist, fluffy, and warm.  There are lots of options, though aim for something that will block sunlight to the soil, allow rainwater to penetrate, and eventually break down in place to a nice rich compost.  Last year’s leaves are perfect, straw works well, you can even use pieces of cardboard. It is best to let your garden soil warm up in the spring before you cover it with mulch, otherwise the mulch insulation will keep it colder longer.  Similarly, at the other end of the season, mulch will help keep your warm soil from freezing longer into the cold weather."

Free time should not be crammed into your schedule or dismissed as impossible, but cherished and preserved in a reasonable work-life balance. With these options in mind, the first step to a healthier, more enjoyable lifestyle begins with you.

--Melissa Hou, Class of 2013