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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

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on September 25, 2020

The Effects of Stress on Your Body And Mind (You Never Knew)

The Effects of Stress on Your Body And Mind (You Never Knew)

We’ve all experienced the effects of stress in one form or another. Feeling stressed out sucks, especially when it becomes chronic.

Stress affects everything from your digestion, immune function, cognition, and mood. In simplest terms, stress is your body’s response to changes that take place in your environment that are deemed ‘unsafe.’

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect environment for a full-blown stress meltdown. It is normal to feel stressed right now. The world feels like it’s upside down—literally.

On top of that, the uncertainty and constant health threats surrounding COVID-19 have led to a surge in mental health issues. A study found that 70% of the U.S. population have identified as moderately to severely distressed since the onset of the pandemic.[1] Can you relate?

It has never been more important to master our emotional health. The pandemic has shown us that, while we can’t control the external world, we always have control over how we respond to it.

Everyone experiences stress, but not everyone deals with it in the same way. The good news is that you have the power to effectively manage your stress so that your world doesn’t feel like it’s falling apart every time you’re hit with a challenge.

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Before you can do that, it’s important to understand how the mind-body connection works.

The Mind-Body Connection and Stress

Despite popular opinion, the mind and the body are not two separate entities. Your physical body impacts your emotions and visa versa. As you can imagine, if there is disharmony in the body, there will also be disharmony in the mind, which in turn will influence your stress levels.

One study found that the type of energy patterns that are carried by certain words and intentions can cause physical changes in DNA structure which become the building blocks of your body.[2]

Have you ever felt a nauseous feeling in your stomach when you’re anxious about something? If so, you’ve experienced the mind-body connection at play.

The next time you find yourself saying something negative, remember that your thoughts determine how your body behaves. Negative emotions contribute to dis-ease in the body. Be mindful of the words you speak because your body is always listening to you. What you think, you become.

The Effects of Stress on the Mind and Body

Life is a rollercoaster ride which means that stress will happen. You cannot hide from it. The best thing that you can do is take preventative measures to ensure that stress doesn’t wreak havoc on your mind and body over the long-term. Here are 3 lesser-known effects of stress.

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1. Weakened Immune System

Your health is your wealth. Without you, you have nothing. If you don’t have a strong immune system, your body won’t be able to fight off disease and/or viruses.

COVID-19 has taught us how important it is to take care of our immune systems. If you want to maintain a strong immune system get a good night’s sleep, do regular exercise, eat healthy foods, take immune-boosting supplements, and commit to relaxation practices.[3] This is how you will train your immune system to work for you instead of against you.

2. Gut Problems

There is a strong correlation between digestive health and stress. The gut and the brain are constantly communicating and sending signals to one another.

Have you ever felt like you were punched in the gut after receiving awful news? Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous about something? These reactions happen for a reason.

An imbalanced intestine can send signals to the brain, just as an imbalanced brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach pains can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.[4]

So, the next time you have an unexplained stomach ache, your stress levels could be the culprit. Avoid foods that can irritate your stomach and aggravate the symptoms of stress, like refined sugars and fried foods. I like to take acidophilus regularly which helps to increase healthy bacteria in the gut.

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Lastly, I encourage you to create a daily Kundalini yoga practice. Kundalini yoga is great for stimulating the flow of energy in the body. There are specific Kundalini exercises that support healthy digestion, some of which include Breath of Fire, Stretch Pose, and Sat Kriya.

3. Depression

Stress is a normal response to positive and negative life experiences. However, if you have trouble coping with stress over the long-term, you can put yourself at risk for developing depression. Sustained or chronic stress leads to elevated hormones such as cortisol, and reduced serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine.[5]

When you experience heightened levels of stress, you are more likely to experience a low mood. Unfortunately, a low mood will make you more prone to not engaging in healthy activities, like exercising and eating well. As a result, your mood will suffer even more.

This toxic spiraling effect is what causes a lot of people to experience symptoms of depression, like fatigue, anxiety, loss of appetite, or in severe cases, suicidal thoughts.

COVID-19 has put a lot of people at risk for depression. With everything that is currently going on in the world, people are more susceptible to feelings of hopelessness and helplessness which can precipitate the onset of depression.

One of the best ways to prevent yourself from falling into a spiral of sadness is to seek professional help. A psychologist or a coach can help you navigate through the difficult times and give you tools for reducing stress and anxiety.

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Secondly, create a daily mindfulness-based practice and make it a non-negotiable. Mindfulness can be in the form of meditation, yoga, dancing, tai chi, or breathwork.

Practicing mindfulness helps you reprogram negative thoughts and reassess difficult experiences with a more calm mind.

Don’t Allow Stress to Take Over Your Life

You have two choices—you can either let stressors suffocate your health and well-being, or you can transform your wounds into wisdom and rewrite a new story.

If you’re scared, it’s okay. You’re human. Allow yourself to feel everything, but don’t lose yourself in the mess. Take a deep breath and trust that your strength is greater than any struggle.

Tips on How to Deal With the Effects of Stress

Featured photo credit: Christian Erfurt via unsplash.com

Reference

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