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Why Leisure Is the New Productivity and How to Reclaim Your Leisure Time

Why Leisure Is the New Productivity and How to Reclaim Your Leisure Time

You’ve probably worked on a weekend, or had to scroll through emails, or answer text messages from a pushy client. In America, there’s something of an emergent “free time” problem.[1] 65% of employees feel the need to be available outside of work hours on phone and email. Nearly half of Americans (slightly more in some studies) report not having enough free time.

The work boundaries have become blurry

Fifteen years ago, most offices were completely rooted on-site: paperwork, records, and communication (phone, primarily) were all tied to you being physically in the office.

Technology changed that. With the advent of the cloud especially, anyone can access almost any file they need from anywhere. Text messages and emails go directly to your phone. The old “After 5pm I cannot access work resources” turned into “I might be expected to respond to something at 11:30pm.”

There is so much to get done at work and schedules are so tight that needs to be the focus. After all, work provides your livelihood. You need to do it well.

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Since there are only so many waking hours in a day, though, you need to cut something. Often this becomes leisure time. Leisure activities like hiking, reading, and spending time with family are often cut first for more hours of work.

Cutting leisure time is no good for productivity

Even though you’re working more, productivity is going to drop. A study conducted by the Institute for the Study of Labor has shown that 55 hours per week is a maximum ceiling on human productivity.[2] You might be expected to work more, but a person working 54 hours per week is about as productive as someone working 80 hours per week.

Leisure time is also crucial to creating bursts of insight and new ways of thinking. Very few people come up with big, great, innovative ideas while focused on the “getting, making, and doing” of day-to-day task work. When you’re too focused (as in task work), it’s easy to get stuck in one way of thinking. When you’re doing other things (i.e. leisure time), a concept called “diffuse thinking” kicks in[3] and the brain can actually analyze much more information at once. This leads to increased connections between events or ideas, which is good for coming up with new solutions and innovations.

The field of economics considers leisure a “normal commodity,” with the yield from leisure being satisfaction.[4] Leisure time is used for resting, sleeping, relationship-building, and doing things you enjoy, so it is inherently satisfaction-producing. Having less leisure time will therefore decrease satisfaction in individuals.

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Make leisure your productivity booster

Instead of cutting leisure time to work more, make time for leisure and utilize it to help you think about bigger ideas and work more efficiently. I understand it’s difficult to just stop working when you’re so busy and do something for leisure, so here are some steps to help you make time for leisure and turn it into your productivity booster.

Do what’s important

You can begin by thinking about a list of things you want to do during your free time. Then, ask yourself about a specific choice: Why is this important?

For an obvious example: sleep is important to be prepared for the next day and because the body requires it.

But here’s another example we often fall to: why would watching TV be important? Most people would answer that it entertains, informs, and helps us decompress after a long day. Those are all valid options, but what if something else — like a night basketball league — was more entertaining? Or what if podcasts (which you can listen to while running) were more informative? There might be easy replacements for TV-watching, instead of instantly falling into that idea.

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Schedule leisure time

Use “time blocking” to achieve this. Under this system, you finish works within a certain period of time — then go for other activities in your leisure time.

The ideal “time on” (work) vs. “time off” (leisure) ratio has been shown by science to be 52 minutes on, 17 minutes off.[5] Consider blocking time like that. When you have more leisure time, i.e. the weekend, schedule out the important activities (family time, exercise, reading, classes) first. Then let the other pieces fall into place around what’s important.

Take a break and come back stronger

If you’re not balancing your work with other aspects of your life like leisure time, you run the risk of becoming a totally unimaginative drone who isn’t enjoying life.

There will always be more work and deadlines in the future. Yes you have to tackle them but that doesn’t mean working on these things 24/7. By taking a break, you relax your body and mind and get yourself more prepared to deal with the challenges again when you’re back to work.

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Struggling about how to manage your time better so you can better balance your time spent on work and leisure? Take a look at my other article How to Gain More Time Like Making Money

Featured photo credit: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 14, 2020

How to Get Deep Sleep in 5 Steps Naturally

How to Get Deep Sleep in 5 Steps Naturally

Why do we need sleep so much? Deep sleep is a blissful state of consciousness and our best beauty treatment. Can we learn how to get deep sleep? Of course!

Many of us have problems of getting quality sleep because of various reasons. The most common sleep disorder is insomnia[1]. Millions of people around the world suffer from insomnia.

Ultimately, deep sleep plays a crucial role for the quality of life we live.

From a biological perspective, a good night’s sleep is important for building a stronger immune system against infections, heart disease, and numerous of other illnesses. It rids our body of exhaustion and pain, frees our mind from any sorrow or worry, and may even prevent diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s[2].

The Wisdom of Deep Sleep

If you’re wondering how to get deep sleep naturally, keep reading. Sleep is a mental phenomenon. Its subtlety and complexity, especially when it comes to deep sleep, is of a spiritual, metaphysical nature; however, it is impacted by various external factors.

These factors are the physiological and psycho-social aspects of our life that play a main role in sleep disorders. By not exploring the nature of deep sleep and neglecting the physiological and psycho-social aspects of our life, we can create negative habits that cause a vicious cycle that leads to poor sleep.

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Deep sleep is explored and practiced in one of the most concise and most important texts of Indian philosophy, the Mandukya Upanishad. The wisdom in this mystic text is quite compressed and might be ungraspable at the beginning, but it offers the answers on deep sleep and the other three levels of consciousness.

I’ve been exploring this subject matter for over seven years and have discovered that, apart from the physiological and psycho-social prep work for going to sleep, a certain sense of spirituality and a recognition of the ego is necessary.

What Stops Deep Sleep?

The cause of sleeping disorders is most probably going to lead us to the fact of fragmenting the life of “one-self” in two entities:

  1. The social identity = me as individual (Ego)
  2. The external world = as not-me

Deep sleep is determined by behavioral influences. If there is no disruption in the circadian rhythm (sleeping during night and being awake during the day) or environmental factors (quiet, dark, rather cool sleeping room), then the question arises: why do I have problems with my sleep? Is there any mental disharmony (dissatisfaction, anxiety, stress, or depression) within me, that prevents me from enjoying deep sleep? If you want to learn how to get deep sleep, it’s important to answer these questions first.

To naturally transgress from the wakeful state of consciousness to the deep sleep state of consciousness, we need to develop a sleep ritual to ease us into deep sleep.

How to Get Deep Sleep Naturally

Try incorporating these five steps into your routine to prepare your body for deep sleep. By experimenting with each of these steps, you’ll find what does and doesn’t work for you and your consciousness.

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1. Shower at the End of the Day

This is a good way to calm down mentally and to feel comfortable and clean in your skin. If you have no possibility to take a shower, than wash your face and teeth properly. Enjoy this step and start slowly retreating from the day. Make this one of your last physical activities for the day.

Express gratitude that you’re able to retreat peacefully, wherever you are and whoever you’re with. Stop talking, verbally as well as mentally.

2. Shut Down the Mental Chatter

Decide not to think about anything that concerns tomorrow, yesterday or today. Your highest priority is sleep.

Your smartphone and the rest of the gadgets should be switched off, your kids should be tucked in, and everything should be set to hibernation mode. In case something happens and takes you out of this step, step 3 below is the technique to be applied.

3. Soothing Exercises

There are several relaxation techniques you can do to sooth your body before sleep. Stretch your spine by pulling up your arms above your head. Let your breathing lead the body movement in order to relieve tension in your muscles. Gently rotate your pelvis, making circles to the left then to the right. Do this for at least 3-5 minutes.

For another 3-5 minutes, stretch your mandibular muscles by gently opening and closing the jaw. Massage your head, neck, and jaw muscles, gently circulating with your hands. This will relieve this whole area of tension and prepare your body to fall asleep easier and quicker. Again, let your breathing lead the movement of your hands.

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4. Deep Breathing

If you try nothing else before going to sleep, at least give this a go. Slow, controlled breathing can reduce your heart rate, lower stress hormones[3], and relax your muscles, all of which are essential in preparing your body for deep sleep.

Simply pay attention to your breath and breath gently, slowly and deeply. Following the flow of your breath will break down the process of thinking.

This conscious, deep breathing technique is the only natural way to stabilize your heart rate, your body temperature, and calm/cease your mental fluctuations. As a result, the nervous system soothes and stabilizes the production of hormones.

All these factors take you more effectively and more efficiently to the so called N3 stage of NREM sleep:  deep sleep.

5. Meditation

Continuous, conscious deep breathing leads you automatically to a meditative state of mind in which all bodily functions are balanced and prepared to regenerate in sleep. Do the following meditation practice:

Consciously generate thoughts about how your breathing pattern will take you from this wakeful state of consciousness to deep sleep in a peaceful way. Meditate on yourself as a pure being that has no form or name. This is quite abstract, but so is deep sleep. In the state of deep sleep, there is no body, no mind, and no experiencer. So, let your “self” be carried into deep sleep by not analyzing how it’s done.

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When the state of deep sleep has transgressed to the state of wakefulness, the concept of the social identity acknowledges the experience of nothingness.

Once you’ve gained expertise in this step, you will never have problems falling asleep, given that your circadian rhythm and environmental factors remain in tact.

Final Thoughts

Many people have their own specific sleep-ritual approach that involves physiological, psycho-social and spiritual aspects. The bottom line is that, if you want to know how to get deep sleep, you must find a way to silence your mind to the extent where no concepts, ideas, or beliefs can influence your wakeful state of consciousness.

Take this sleep-ritual approach and allow yourself to put everything aside in order to effortlessly and carelessly transgress into deep sleep.

Pay respect to the power of your intelligence that keeps your body healthy every single day, enabling you to enjoy the wonders of life, of which the biggest one is you.

Let go of your dilemmas and look deep inside yourself, where the infinite silence of deep sleep resides.

More Tips on How to Get Deep Sleep

Featured photo credit: Gregory Pappas via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] American Sleep Association: Insomnia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
[2] National Institute of Health: Sleep deprivation increases Alzheimer’s protein
[3] Neurological Science: The role of deep breathing on stress

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