A research paper released late last year investigated this tradeoff, attempting to pinpoint how much leisure time is best. Its authors examined the relationship between the amount of “discretionary time” people had—basically, how much time people spend awake and doing what they want—and how pleased they were with their lives. (Some examples of “discretionary” activities were watching TV, socializing, going to the movies, spending time with family, and doing nothing.)
The paper, which analyzed data covering about 35,000 Americans, found that employed people’s ratings of their satisfaction with life peaked when they had in the neighborhood of two and a half hours of free time per day. For people who didn’t work, the optimal amount was four hours and 45 minutes.