A Lesson On Leisure Time

There is a lot of reading material out there that make an argument for how we should spend our leisure time. Should we spend it sitting idly and recharging for the challenges of the workday? Or should we use that time working more hours and trying to get further ahead in our work?

I’ve always thought that the time spent away from work was designated for relaxation. For years, if I wasn’t hanging out with friends, my main objective after the workday ended was to eat, maybe workout, and turn the brain off. I wanted to sit on the couch and watch mindless television.

Sitting mindlessly doesn’t actually serve us, though. It’s suggested that we should instead spend our leisure time with our mind actively engaged. We should be focused on doing things that add value to our lives. Our time should be spent on self-improvement and growing our relationships with others. I came across this theory in Cal Newport’s book Deep Work and decided to adopt it to my daily routine.

This past Sunday evening I was really tired and felt completely unmotivated to do anything productive. I was in a state of low energy that was quite uncomfortable. Instead of spending my evening having the television stare at me, I decided to put the theory to the test by reading a book.

After 20 minutes or so of reading, I began to notice a shift in my mood. Without warning, I was no longer tired, and I was actually enjoying myself. I couldn’t believe it. What was shaping up to be an unproductive and uneventful night, turned out to be a night filled with learning and self-improvement.

I found this theory to be a complete game changer when it comes to productivity. No longer should we behave as if the day is over as soon as the workday ends. Our 9 to 5 hours are just one part of the day, not the whole day. What we do between the hours of 5–9 actually impact our 9 to 5. It’s those hours spent after your normal workday that make you better in both your day job and in life.

What does your day look like today? How are you currently spending your evenings and weekends? I encourage you to intentionally incorporate activities that add value to your life. Spend time building your relationships. Read a book that gives you new perspective. Learn a new skill that stretches you. Explore your city. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you choose to maximize your evenings and use them to move your life forward.