I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can get more done in less time, a concern that is hardly unique to me. One of my favorite things to visit and revisit is my balance between leisure and work: Am I spending too much time playing games? Surfing the Web? Blogging? Surely some of that time would be better spent writing, researching, and cleaning up my office, right?
Finding that balance is an important step of an effective life and workflow, but I’ve recently been thinking a lot about something else: managing my leisure itself. Leisure, as the title of this post suggests, is like the dark back alley of Productivitytown: It’s not the part that we show off to visitors, it’s the routines that we like to pretend don’t exist, and it’s never really going to be transformed into a bustling avenue that adds a lot to the productivity economy. But, here’s the thing: Should it have to? Leisure will always and should always be a part of your daily life. It shouldn’t take up too much of that daily life, but it will always and should always be there.
Now, if it’s always going to be there, it might be worth cleaning up a little. For me, this issue of cleaning up my leisure (which I have dubbed “leisurehacking”) grew out of my efforts to balance leisure and productivity. Despite my handwringing about spending too much time on not-work (which is and should be a real concern of mine), I can say with some confidence that I’ve never let leisure pose a significant threat to my academic or professional career. For a while, though, I had trouble reconciling that confidence with the fact that I know I’ve been spending an increasing amount of time on certain types of leisure over the past several years. If this increasing amount of time isn’t taking a toll on my studies or my work, where is it coming from?
Reading, it turns out. A depressingly small amount of my current leisure time is spent reading, especially when you compare it to my bookworm days of middle and high school. Now, we could have a long debate about the merits of reading tome after tome of mediocre science fiction vs. the merits of social media, games, and my other current leisurely vices, but the fact is that I really miss a lot of that time I spent reading, and I’m sure that I’m missing out on some valuable experiences, too.
So, now I’m faced with a new question. In addition to “am I spending the right amount of time on leisure?”, I wonder “am I spending the right amount of time on the right kind of leisure?” I don’t have any answers to these questions, but I hope to experiment with “leisurehacking” over the next few weeks and months. Maybe I’ll keep a Duolingo tab pinned to Chrome so that I spend my Pomodoro breaks there instead of on Facebook or TV Tropes. Maybe I’ll find a way to convince myself that diving into Kierkegaard or Camus is just as effective as computer games for relaxing at the end of a long day. Maybe I can make sure that my Wikipedia tangents during stats class stick to reading about Swiss politics (in French) instead of the finer details of Ferengi culture.
These small victories won’t resolve the issue of leisure v. work balance, but if that back alley is always going to be there, I might as well use put it to some use too.