Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on February 4, 2018

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

Forget Learning How to Multitask: Boost Productivity 10X More with Focus How To Be Successful In Life: 13 Tips From The Most Successful People 50 Habits of Highly Successful People You Should Learn Feel better instead of feeling tired Feeling Tired All the Time? Find out Why and How to Get Energetic Again The Only Way to Remember Everything You Have Read

Trending in Restore Energy

1Have Trouble Sleeping? 7 Proven Ways to Get More Rest 2A Lack of Sleep May Slowly Kill You: Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know 319 Fun Activities for Seniors to Stay Active Physically and Mentally 4How Relaxing Music for Kids Can Help ADHD (+ Music Recommendations) 518 Fun Activities for Kids to Do on a Rainy Day

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Published on July 16, 2018

Have Trouble Sleeping? 7 Proven Ways to Get More Rest

Have Trouble Sleeping? 7 Proven Ways to Get More Rest

Laying there, you watch the alarm clock change numbers more times than you’ve changed decisions on dinner.

You know you have to get some sleep because otherwise tomorrow is going to be a wreck. You plead with your body, begging it to enter a deep slumber for your own sanity. Of course that isn’t exactly working. But hey, you’ll try anything… you’re not above the begging.

Going to bed feeling “wide awake” is a common issue that many people struggle with, and one that isn’t easy to solve. There are multiple factors involved in your quest to fall asleep quickly and stay in a state of rest throughout the night.

There’s one thing we can all agree on, though – it’s an awful predicament.

Lucky you, there are ways we can combat this feeling and get to bed feeling relatively tired before we even lie down. I’ll show you several ways you can get to bed feeling just a bit more ready to accept an awesome night’s sleep:

1. Put the phone and laptop away at least an hour before bed

I’ll start with the no-brainer but the one that people continually struggle with the most.

Yes, we know we need to shed ourselves of those things called “technology”; you know, the phones, the laptops, the computers, the TVs, the tablets, the phablets (a phone the size of a tablet), and the list goes on and on and on. We’re connected to them all day, and if we had the choice, we’d be connected to them all night.

We’re hooked; consumer electronics barely leave our fingertips, and they have the pleasure of being our eyes’ object of affection for most of the day. Sometimes, I wonder what our phones or computer would say to us if it knew how much we stare at them.

I’m glad they don’t talk. Well, I take that back since some already do on command. I’m just glad they don’t give us their unwarranted opinions.

The least you can do is give each other a little space when the sun goes down. A little time away from each other never hurt anybody. Not a lot of time, just a few hours.

The easiest way is to have the charger in another room (the room that you don’t spend evenings in) and when it’s time to wind down for the evening, plug it in and walk away. And then eventually go to bed, blissfully knowing your email or social media will be just fine.

Try the whole I’ll give you a couple hours space; it works for relationships too.

Advertising

2. Immerse yourself in some reading before bed

We all could use a little more reading.

I’d wager that a lot of us at some point or another put it as a goal. Yet we fall short just about every time.

Instead, we pick up that phone, open that laptop, or turn on that TV for a little more instant gratification. Oy, reading takes so much effort.

Well, since you’ll be putting your phone and laptop away a little bit earlier than usual, why not fill the void with some light reading?

Any kind of book will do, or even a magazine if so inclined. The idea is to actually read words on paper, not on an LCD or LED screen.

Feeling a little out of your comfort zone? That’s ok, I know it may seem like a foreign activity, but you’ll find that the peacefulness and relaxing nature of reading a book can do wonders for your sleep pattern.

Plus, your eyes will thank you.

3. Engage in a calm or soothing habit

Hobbies is a word that has become increasingly rare in today’s generation. I’m beginning to think people are forgetting the definition of the word.

Put together, most of us spend well over an hour a day on social media, valuable time that could be used towards a hobby.

No, watching movies, hanging with friends, or going to the gym doesn’t count.

Instead, look to pick up some actual hobbies, and more specifically, soothing ones.

What exactly does soothing mean? Generally, it’s anything that allows you to relax while doing it. That means it doesn’t cause stress and doesn’t force you to be hyper-aware or exert any kind of physical activity. Things such as knitting, painting, and reading (ring a bell?) all work well.

Advertising

Do a little research on potential hobbies you could pick up that help you relax.

Allowing your brain to focus on the task at hand and “disconnect” from real world problems, even temporarily, can help reset and lower your anxiety and stress, all factors that affect your sleep.

4. Eat a healthy diet, and stay satiated at night

Eating healthy goes beyond just feeling good, it actually helps you sleep much better too.

There is a myth that eating before bed is a bad thing; in fact, the opposite could hold true. Eating the right foods at night can help stave off those all too familiar hunger pangs, and give your body the right fuel it needs to rebuild itself while you sleep.

The trick, of course, is eating the right foods – anything super salty, fatty, or sugary won’t do you very much good. You’ll just end up feeling uncomfortable, which affects your ability to fall asleep.

Instead, aim for things such as complex carbs, fruit, or non-starchy vegetables. Check out the best foods to help you sleep better.

And most importantly, don’t go to bed hungry – listen to your body.

Throughout the day, make sure you feed it the right things too – a bad diet is a huge step backwards in a lot of areas, including your sleep cycles. A healthy, nutritious, balanced diet ensures your body is working optimally.

The last trick is to avoid eating right before bed; as in don’t graze your way through the fridge and then throw yourself under your covers and turn out the lights.

Give it a little bit of time, preferably at least an hour before bed. But if you last ate six hours ago…give yourself some fuel.

5. Pick up meditation

Even though the most convenient (and thus easiest) time to meditate is in the morning, you’ll soon find out that this science-backed activity can benefit you more than 16 hours later as you’re trying to fall asleep.

If you need some convincing to start, here’s what meditation can do for you health wise:

Advertising

  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Increase immune health
  • Increase focus
  • Shrinks the brain’s amygdala (the part that deals with fear and emotion)[1]

Meditation can also offer the following overall benefits:

  • Increase self-awareness
  • Induce relaxation
  • Increase happiness
  • Increase self-acceptance

And the list goes on and on.

Confused where to start?

Spend five minutes sitting still in the morning before you begin your day, and even do the same at night before bed.

Find a meditation app that can guide you if you find yourself having trouble sitting still and relaxing. Or do a simple Google search to find hundreds of guides on different types of meditation.

Or simply check out this guide: The 5-minute Guide to Meditation: Anywhere, Anytime

6. Get involved in exercise

Exercise has also proven itself extremely beneficial, and with probably thousands of studies done (don’t quote me on that but I’d argue it’s possible) that show its true benefits, you would be hard pressed to ignore it in today’s modern age.

All in, exercise can help with the following:[2]

  • Control your weight
  • Control your hormones
  • Reduce your risk for diseases (such as heart disease) and cancers
  • Improve your mental mood
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles
  • Improve your sexual health

Regular exercise also helps improve your sleep, by allowing you to enter a deeper sleep sooner, and for longer.[3]

Deep sleep, known as REM, is our most restorative sleep we can achieve. The more time you spend in deep sleep, the more you can boost your immune system, improve cardiovascular health, and control stress/anxiety.

Not to mention, physical exercise takes effort in the form of expended energy. The more energy you expend, the more tired you get eventually. By expending all this energy, you’ll feel tired sooner in the evenings, allowing you to fall asleep much faster.

Where to start? Get moving! Join a local gym for some intro classes, do some simple bodyweight workouts at home. Again, Google is your best friend here. The options are overwhelmingly unlimited.

Advertising

Try these 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

Keep this is mind: there is no one right way. Start something, and tweak at will.

7. Keep a consistent schedule

Consistency in your sleep patterns come as a result of keeping a regular routine.

The easiest way to get knocked off schedule is by constantly shifting your bed time or what you do in the few hours before bed.

By having a fairly standard routine in place, you begin to trick your brain into knowing that bed time is coming simply by initiating certain activities.

The same phenomenon explains why trying to read in bed (if you never do) makes you fall asleep quickly. If all you ever do in bed is sleep, then your brain assumes that lying in bed means it’s time to sleep, right?

If one day you decide to try to read in bed, you might find yourself waking up an hour later. Why is that?

Your brain thought it was time to sleep. So it initiated its sequence to make that happen. It didn’t know what reading in bed meant, and so it did what it knows best – sleep.

This is exactly why you should make sure to keep your bed reserved for two activities only – sleep and sex. Otherwise, you risk having your brain adapt to the idea that your bed doesn’t always mean it’s time to sleep.

The bottom line

If you find that your sleep schedule is inconsistent, you have trouble falling asleep and you wake up feeling about as sluggish as your hungover Sunday mornings in college, it might be time to reassess all the things you do in your waking hours.

Putting technology away, reading, finding soothing hobbies, eating healthy, meditating, exercising and keeping a consistent schedule will all help you achieve better sleep.

But it’s up to you to actually implement them. What will you do to wake up feeling refreshed?

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next