Maximizing Leisure Time

Do you ever find yourself so focused on your professional goals that you just feel burned out? This happens to me frequently, despite my best efforts to plan and schedule things effectively. Let’s face it: there really is a lot to do and time is at a premium.

I sometimes find with my writing that I’ll be on a roll for a while and then get stuck. When this happens, I step back and do something else. Ideally, the activity meets the following criteria:

  1. It helps me meet another one of my goals.
  2. It gives me one or more small successes that give me a sense of accomplishment and help build my momentum, confidence and self-esteem.
  3. It doesn’t require a huge time commitment and doesn’t sidetrack me from what I should be doing.

Some of the things I try to do are spend time with family, exercise, organize my office, yard work (I actually find it therapeutic) or catch up with someone I haven’t spoken to in some time. Some of these meet all three, some don’t. It’s okay to not be productive 100% of the time – like our bodies, our minds often need rest. In fact, just knowing I have a break coming up motivates me to get more done so I can mentally put aside my work and focus on enjoying myself.

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional activity that doesn’t meet any of these criteria (such as watching your favorite TV show every week). I love playing my Xbox and my Wii – and one can argue that small successes in video games can have some positive effects on one’s mental state.

But the trap that many of us fall victim to is spending too much time doing these activities. I recently saw a poll where 40% of respondents watched over 20 hours of TV a week – that’s half a work week! I also know people who watch over three hours of TV every weeknight. We all need the occasional mind-numbing activity to unwind, but try not to get sucked in. Setting a time limit for these activities will help and a kitchen timer can help you stick to it.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break, watching your favorite show or simply lying in your bed letting thoughts come and go. Sometimes this added break can reboot your mind and actually reenergize you. As long as your leisure isn’t becoming a tool for procrastination, you deserve a break.

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