Making the most of your spare time: Creating the working day and working week you want 

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Spare time, what spare time! 

For many of us, when we have been in full time permanent employment, often in demanding roles for an extended period of time, we just don’t know what we want to do with our spare time – we have never had any! 

When we are on holiday, it’s precious time to be with family, go travelling and, most importantly, recover.   During the rest of our working lives, spare time may be an evening out once a week, taking the kids out for football on a Saturday or a Sunday, an opportunity to catch up with the gardening or DIY, or an occasional visit to relatives.  However, we are fitting these things into a very small amount of spare time. 

I remember my wife complaining that the only time I was ever ill was over Christmas.  The two week break gave me ‘permission’ to recover and the best way to check out was to have ‘flu. 

Rethinking your spare time 

There are 168 hours in a week.  On average you might get seven hours of sleep a night: 49 hours sleep and you have 119 hours left.  If you are working from 8am to 6pm five days a week and travel means you leave the house at 6:30 and get home at 7:30 that will consume 65 hours.  Add in some work at the weekend, evening meetings or business travel and the average easily becomes 75 hours a week.    You have 51 hours left.  One hour in the morning before you leave for work: 46 hours left.  Three hours in the evening on a weekday: 31 hours left.  

What were you doing with those three hours in the evening?  Perhaps, an hour for a meal and then TV, social media or an occasional night out. 

What were you doing with the 31 hours available at the weekend?  The weekly shop?  Taxi service for the children?  Household chores?  A lie in or an early night? Church on Sundays? The discretionary time for socialising, hobbies or other interests is squeezed out. 

Twelve fee earning days a month: dare to dream 

As a portfolio executive, you are now fee earning for about 24 hours a week.  144 hours a week are at your disposal. 

I would suggest that as a first step to working out what your free time is for, start to give yourself the opportunity to dream for something different.   

Maybe there’s an initial piece of time where you’re catching up on the DIY, you’ll bring the garden under control, you’re meeting more friends than you used to but I would say don’t just go with the flow.  Start to be in intentional about dreaming for something different.  Is there some kind of childhood desire that you’ve never stepped into?   

Have you wanted to: 

  • Write a book 
  • Learn a new instrument 
  • Join a band  
  • Go traveling  
  • Do more train spotting 
  • Learn how to fly fish

What is the thing that you want your spare time for?  If all you are doing is sitting around cluttering up the house then you will become a burden to yourself and the people around you.  

This is not just about more business, this is about recognising that there are parts of who you are, who you were created to be that have been starved, shut down and ignored for far too long and now you have the opportunity to do things that you’d love to do.   

Several of the portfolio executives that I work with have gone on improv workshops, to learn how to improvise – it has opened up a whole new world for them.  Others have joined choirs. There are lots of choirs out there that don’t require you to have an audition: join a choir, meet you people, have new fun. Perhaps join a park run: an undemanding regular commitment to go out and do a 10K run once a week or once a month.  Start visiting places, go and re-establish your love for the theatre, eat out, learn how to cook, or often a big agenda item, is more travel.  We’ll talk about holidays and travel in another conversation.   

Rethink Family Life 

How could your family life become different?   

Do you have an elderly parent or aging parent, or parent-in-law who you haven’t spent as much time with as you would like?  Perhaps you have become disconnected with them.  Now is an opportunity to rebuild that relationship.  I know for me, although the relationship with my parents had never been estranged, it did become more and more important just to set aside time to be with them and have conversations that would restore and strengthen relationship in their later years.  When they had a medical crisis, the flexibility of a portfolio lifestyle meant I could go and be with them.  I worked from their homes, continuing to fee earn, while also being available, cooking for them and so on.   

Perhaps you have got teenage children and now their need is beyond the programme of school activities.  They need you to be around for that moment when they need to talk to you.  By cooking, travelling or just being the taxi of mum and dad, you can have conversations when they are ready rather than at formal mealtimes. 

Re-think your Marriage 

What do you really want from that most important relationship that you have got?  Sadly, too many of the professionals, I’m working with, have found that their initial marriage or their primary partnership broke down during their corporate working life.  Are you someone who can no longer believe you’ll ever have a life partner again.  Are you determined that, second time round, you didn’t want to make the same mistakes as before.  How can you be intentional about nurturing that relationship?  How can you recognise that perhaps there are ways you can support one other, be with one other, do things together that felt impossible when you were a full-time salary professional? 

You could be like some of my portfolio executives that go into business with their partners.   You need to be prepared to adjust your relationship to work side by side, but it can be very rewarding.  Perhaps you need to  look at the five love languages and recognise that how you offer love and experience love is different from how your life partner does. For example, whereas I value acts of service, my wife flourishes with words of affirmation.  

Think again about what you want out of your relationship.  Think again about how you can strengthen and build your relationship.   Consider sitting down and having some of those difficult conversations that you haven’t had for a long time about what you really want out of sharing your lives together.   


A portfolio executive workstyle can give you a new freedom to make the most of your spare time.  The choice is yours whether to dare to dream and then carry the intention of fulfilling those dreams.  Opening up those desires of your youth, making time for family and building a relationship with a life partner, are all open to you when fee earning is only 24 hours a week.