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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 May 28, 2020

Why Am I Exhausted? The Real Causes and How to Fix It Forever

Why Am I Exhausted? The Real Causes and How to Fix It Forever

Do you say “I’m exhausted” all the time? Do you constantly feel exhausted for no reason?

Fatigue shows up in many ways, including pure exhaustion, the inability to concentrate, anger, frustration and behavioral issues, memory problems, decreased work performance, and slower reaction times.

Chronic fatigue has also been linked to medical problems, including obesity, hypertension, depression, diabetes, as well as increased automobile accidents.

We attempt to combat fatigue with coffee, sugar, energy drinks, vitamins, and a variety of other products that claim to increase our energy and stamina. But what if your exhaustion is trying to tell you something?

If you’re getting enough sleep and you’re still feeling exhausted, it’s time to stop, take a step back, and look at what else is contributing to your exhaustion.

As a life-coach and consultant with a diverse background, I like to look at things from a holistic view – from multiple levels – including your body, mind, and spirit.

So, before you reach for that next cup of coffee, the 3 pm sugary snack, or the toxic energy drink, let’s look at some reasons why you might be tired all the time. And more importantly, let’s see what you can do about it.

Here are 11 potential reasons why you’re exhausted even when you get enough rest and what you can do about it.

1. You Are out of Alignment Mentally, Emotionally, or Spiritually.

Essentially, you’re off track with who you are and what works for you. Maybe you’re unhappy, unfulfilled, stressed out, or just plain bored with some areas of your life. You might be in a relationship that isn’t working, a job you can’t stand, or a situation that drains your energy.

Think about a time in your life when you were in the flow, in the zone, and totally engaged and excited about what you were doing. How much sleep did you need then? Even after only a few hours, my guess is you probably found yourself jumping out of bed in the morning without an alarm clock, excited to embark the day.

On the flip side, think about a time in your life when you were in a relationship or job that zapped your energy. No matter how much sleep you got, you probably found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning and were tempted to hit that snooze button just a few more times.

We all have things that make us feel great and energized and things that completely zap our energy.

Maybe you’re someone who likes to move quickly but you’re drowning in detail; maybe you’re someone who thrives when you are on top of things and you’re feeling like everything is completely out of control. Or maybe you thrive on spontaneity and variety and you’re bored with your life.

When I asked my 11-year-old daughter why she thought people are tired even when we get enough rest, here’s what she said:

“Maybe people are bored and so they’re tired.”

Ever wonder why you can’t drag your kid out of bed for school on the weekdays but they pop out of bed on the weekend? Perhaps this is the culprit.

I had a client share this sentiment recently as she described a period in her life: “My boss sucked, the work was boring and it made me tired all the time.”

Exactly.

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When you’re doing things that align with who you are – in environments that align with what you need, you will feel more energized and alive. On the contrary, when you’re in environments that go against your grain, you will feel drained and de-energized.

What Can You Do?

Take a step back and identify what’s not working. Figure out what you want and work towards it. Do things that give you energy.

What makes you feel healthy and alive, energized, and excited? What gets you in the flow and makes you feel most like you? Aim to get more of that in your life.

Find more ways to be in alignment with who you are by reading this article: How to Get Motivated and Be Happy Every Day When You Wake Up.

2. You Are out of Alignment Physically.

When we are structurally out of alignment, it can cause all sorts of issues. When things aren’t moving properly, it makes it hard for your body to do its job. Not to mention, pain is exhausting and zaps energy.

And we are pretty hard on our bodies, aren’t we? We drag them around and tell them what to do. They need to be taken care of too.

Here’s what Chiropractor, Dr. Ruth Ziemba, who specializes in NSA (Network Spinal Analysis) has to say:

All of life is energy. We are energy. Any disturbance or blockages to the energy flow creates imbalances. Physical, mental and emotional stressors can cause subluxations (misalignment of the vertebrae) which interfere with signals getting clearly through your body. This can result in many health problems, including fatigue and insomnia.

Recently, I was feeling tired all the time – and felt like I was doing “everything else” right. So, I went to see my chiropractor and a cranial sacral therapist. Two days later, I felt much more energized and clear in my head.

I love the analogy I was once given by a chiropractor: “It doesn’t matter how well you can play an instrument if the instrument is out of tune.”

Such is true with our bodies.

What Can You Do?

Get some bodywork. This might include getting a massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, reiki, cranial sacral therapy – anything that works for you.

Don’t know where to start? Ask a friend or colleague for a recommendation.

Even better if you have a friend in the field who can refer you to another practitioner. And make sure to schedule regular bodywork, not just when you need it.

3. You Are Not Eating Right (or Enough).

What and how much you eat has significant effects on your energy levels.

While there are many different diet protocols, there is one thing all the experts can agree on: sugar and processed foods make you feel sluggish and exhausted.

They make your blood sugar go haywire, causing you to feel a brief period of energy followed by a crash. Paradoxically, those are the very things we reach for when we need to get some energy.

What Can You Do?

I’ve found two things to be consistently true.

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One, you need to eat real, clean food. The food you’re putting into your body is either real or it’s not. Avoid processed foods and especially refined sugars. You’re going to feel so much better for it.

Two, find what works for YOU – Gluten-free, Paleo, Mediterranean, high-fat, plant-based, you name it. Experts and well-meaning friends and family may tell you what’s best, but no one knows your body as well as you do.

Pay attention. Do you feel energized or fatigued after you eat certain foods? What works – and what doesn’t for YOU? Our bodies have intrinsic wisdom if we are willing to listen – and hear them.

4. You Are Not Really Sleeping.

We’ve established that you’re (hopefully) getting enough sleep. But are you getting enough high-quality sleep?

Some of the top causes of poor sleep quality include being on electronics right before bed, interruptions, an uncomfortable mattress or the wrong pillow, grinding your teeth, an inconsistent sleep routine, or the fact that you’re not getting through all of the sleep cycles.

What Can You Do?

Start with the basics – get off your electronics at least an hour before bed, make sure you have a comfortable pillow and mattress, set a consistent sleep routine, reduce outside noise and sleep in a well-darkened room or wear an eye mask.

If you have difficulty falling asleep or have poor sleep quality, this guide will help you get a good night’s sleep back: Poor Sleep Quality Comes from All the Things You Do Since Morning.

5. You Are Stressed or Worrying Too Much.

When you’re stressed, you produce more cortisol (the stress hormone), which can significantly affect your sleep.[1] This is why one of the common side effects of stress is sleep problems.

On top of stress hormones, excessive worrying can drain your energy. When you worry, you’re using energy.

It’s like when you have an app on your phone that takes up a lot of battery and you have it constantly running the background, your battery will drain more quickly. Such is true with worry and stress.

I think of this very simply. We all start the day with 100 units of energy to use throughout the day. If you’re using half of your energy units worrying, you’re inevitably going to be tired.

What Can You Do?

Find things that reduce your stress levels. I’ve seen clients have great success with yoga, meditation, and exercise. Worrying too much? Get a clear plan in place to take action on what’s worrying you.

    6. You Are Not Breathing Deeply Enough.

    Deep breathing increases circulation by bringing oxygen to your muscles and brain. This increased oxygen content in the bloodstream leads to greater energy and healthier muscles, organs, and tissues.

    To highlight the benefits of deep breathing, I reached out to a longtime Yoga Instructor and Ayurveda Wellness Counselor, Vivica Schwartz. Here’s what she shared:

    “Most people breathe into the chest only (shallow breathing) and don’t allow the breath to reach deeper into the abdominal region, due to stress and anxiety. Shifting the breath down, so that it expands the belly (and all the muscles that comprise the diaphragm) is one of the best ways to shift our awareness, quiet the mind, release tension and increase our energy levels”.[2]

    What happened when you started to read this one? Did you start breathing more deeply? Great, you’re already on your way.

    What Can You Do?

    Make a conscious effort to breathe deeply, more often. Try this from Vivica:

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    1. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower belly.
    2. Breathe smoothly in and out through the nose, noticing how your breath expands three-dimensionally in the ribcage.
    3. Now, begin to shift the inhalation into the lower abdomen first, so that the lower hand rises first, then fill the chest area.
    4. Reverse the process on the exhalation, emptying the chest area first, then the lower belly.
    5. Continue like this for a few rounds, visualizing the diaphragm contracting and pushing down and expanding the belly area.

    7. You Are Hanging out With the Wrong Crowd.

    Have you ever known someone who “sucks the life out of you”? After spending time together, you feel tired, drained, and exhausted?

    “Energy vampires” do just that – they suck your energy. It doesn’t matter how much sleep you’re getting. If you’re spending time with people who drain your energy, you’re going to feel tired.

    What Can You Do?

    Grab some garlic and your stake and ditch the energy vampires. Make a conscious effort to hang out with people who feed your soul and make you feel energized and alive.

    If you need a little help to spot these people out, you can check this article out: 15 Signs Of Negative People.

    8. You Are Not Moving.

    There’s been a lot of research conducted over many years that shows physical activity and exercise improves energy and decreases fatigue.

    In a widely acknowledged 2006 study published in Psychological Bulletin, researchers analyzed 70 studies on exercise and fatigue which involved more than 6,800 people.

    Over 90% of the studies showed the same thing: sedentary people who completed a regular exercise program reported improved fatigue compared to those that did not exercise.[3]

    What Can You Do?

    Get moving! Find ways to increase your exercise and movement.

    General guidelines are 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity (or a combination of the two). This can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, walking 20 minutes a day, or participating in a sport you enjoy.

    Here’re some tips for you: How to Instantly Fall in Love With Moving and Start Shaking off the Extra Pounds

    9. You Are Dehydrated.

    The human body is composed of 50-65% water. Some parts of our bodies, like our brain, heart, and lungs are more than 70% water. This means even mild dehydration can cause your energy levels to fall.

    Fatigue is a telltale sign you are dehydrated. In fact, in a survey of 300 doctors in the UK, 1 in 5 patients who saw their doctor for symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness simply weren’t drinking enough water.[4]

    What Can You Do?

    First and foremost, drink enough water. A simple rule of thumb is eight 8-ounce glasses per day. And before you reach for your coffee in the morning, reach for a glass of water first.

    However, Doctor and hydration expert Dr. Zach Bush noted,

    “Proper hydration is not simply infusing your body with water. More specifically, it’s about getting the water inside your cells. To do that, you need to improve the electrical charges across your cellular membranes. Strategies that improve the electrical charge across your membranes include: reducing EMF (electromagnetic field) exposure, increasing electrolytes, and boosting your fiber intake.”

    So, try this intensive hydration protocol:

    Drink 4 ounces of water every 30 minutes from 7 am to 7 pm for 3 days. During this intense hydration, add electrolytes to every other 4-ounce dose. Then give your body a break from food and water between 7 pm and 7 am.

    Learn more about intracellular hydration with Dr. Bush here.

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    10. You Are Too Busy.

    You know the saying, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.” I say, leave the busy person alone. They clearly have enough on their plate.

    I work with many clients, especially moms, who wonder why they are so tired all the time. When I ask them to tell me about “a day in their life”, I get something like this:

    6 am wake-up, exercise, get the kids off to school, work, drive to after-school activities, get dinner on the table, do housework, coordinate schedules, bath and bedtime (for the kids of course), and then back to work after the kids go to bed.

    And they wonder why they are tired?

    I get it. I’ve been there and I have to be careful of this myself. As a working mom of three young girls, who also wants to be social and active in my community, I know all too well the life of being busy. I’ve had to reign it in, create strategies, and make very conscious decisions.

    What Can You Do?

    Look at your life as an outside observer or “fly on the wall”.

    What do you notice? Maybe you need to learn to say no? Perhaps you need to take a step back and identify what’s most important? Or set better boundaries?

    Perhaps you need to delegate more, outsource, or just get some stuff off YOUR plate! Take just ONE thing and start from there.

    If you want extra advice on this, check out this guide: The Ultimate Guide to Prioritizing Your Work And Life.

    11. There Is Something Else Going On.

    If you’ve tried everything above – you are getting enough sleep and you are still tired, you may want to see your doctor or healthcare professional to uncover any underlying issues.

    Among other things, what leads to exhaustion could be medication side effects and other health concerns, including thyroid and adrenal dysfunction, anemia, and sleep apnea.

    What Can You Do?

    Talk to your doctor. Seriously, make an appointment.

    If you’re sleeping enough and doing all the “right” things above and you still feel tired, it’s important to identify what could be the cause.

    The Bottom Line

    If you’re sleeping enough and still find yourself tired and exhausted all the time, it’s time to step back and see which of these reasons resonate with you.

    To get a different result, you have to DO something differently. In order to be more energized and less exhausted, you’re going to need to make some changes.

    What changes will you make? Are you going to eat better, exercise more, stay hydrated, take something off your plate, reassess the job you hate, or relationship that’s draining you?

    Take a few minutes right now, and think of 1 to 3 things you’re going to try. Write them down in your journal, on your phone, or send an email to yourself.

    Change takes action and it’s time for a change. You’ve got this. Take action now and your energy levels will be glad you did!

      Tips to Combat Exhaustion

      Reference

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