The Benefits of Scheduling Your Free Time
with Nir Eyal
with guest Nir Eyal #MakingBank S4E27
For many people, the first task when arriving to work is to pull up the calendar and create a mental map of the day’s events. Having everything laid out in front of us helps us structure our day and know what needs to get done when. But studies have shown that most of us are misusing our calendars, if we’re even using one in the first place.
A paltry 1/3rd of Americans bother keeping any calendar at all, and 2/3rds of those calendars are only for work related events (shame). By employing calendars only for work, we can create an imbalance where we are focusing too much on our jobs and not enough on our free time. Actually penciling in leisure activities is a form of self–care that can benefit your mental health and even your performance at work.
The Benefits of Scheduling Free Time
When we schedule our free time we are essentially making it clear to ourselves that our happiness is a priority. This can not only enhance the quality of the time you spend outside of work, but it can actually give you something to look forward to while working, keeping you in a good mood and increasing the quality of the work you get done. If all you have to look forward to is more work, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, get worn down, and let the burnout sink in.
Making specific time for our friends and loved ones also shows them that they are a priority in your life, and you may need this reminder too. We are only as strong as the relationships we have, and strengthening those relationships can help solidify your entire life, significantly reducing your stress.
Another benefit of scheduling your free time is that you may find it easier to soak it up guilt free. We all know the feeling of being halfway through bingeing our favorite series, only to have our love for Baby Yoda constantly threatened by a sense of pending doom lurking beneath the surface for not having gone grocery shopping or ticked everything off our work itinerary. With scheduled free time you set the standard that you are allowed to take your designated time off from your responsibilities, letting you sink into the couch and gobble up the ice cream stress free.
Implied here is that when we’re taking advantage of our free time, we have already taken care of the other items on our schedule, but knowing specifically when we’re supposed to be off the clock can help us focus on our tasks at hand and cross those items off the to-do list more easily. It also will make us less susceptible to daydreaming, external distractions vying for our attention, or simply getting lazy when we are supposed to be working. Finishing our day’s tasks leads to feeling better about our time off.
What Type of Free Time Should We Schedule
So what type of free time should we be penciling in to make sure we get the most of it? This will be different for everyone, but there are several basic things we do in our free time, and we all likely need a mix of each.
The first distinction is whether we are going to spend our free time alone, with a significant other, or a group of friends. Introverts recharge alone or with one other person, while extroverts benefit from more social settings. You likely already have a grasp on what you need most, but don’t pigeonhole yourself: introversion vs. extroversion is a spectrum and almost all of us lie closer to the center than heavily to one side.
The second distinction we need to make is whether we want to plan some type of outing, hanging at home or even napping it up. Again, most of us need to make sure we’re getting a dose of both sides here. Even the most active among us need to take a break sometimes or risk overextending ourselves, and even the most introverted need to get out of the house and meet new people.
Challenging yourself to occasionally do things that are outside your normal range of activities can open you up to new experiences that you may not have realized you would enjoy, and many people find a new type of stimulation can be refreshing. This can help your brain reboot and recharge, and you can even find your self image improving as you learn new things about yourself and broaden your horizons.
Switch up your normal routine of staying out until 2am on weekends and try going for a hike, or to a museum. Or, if you typically go to museums… try staying out until 2am! (We’re only half joking). Living in a new way, even for a day, can remind you that there are infinite possibilities and spark an interest in exploring new places, activities or even ideas, forging new neural pathways in your brain – literally opening your mind.
As for indoor activities, you probably have this covered. Netflix, board games, knitting… whatever, do you. One underrated move you may not have considered is just laying on your bed, phone out of reach, and seeing what thoughts start coming to you. This is a great way to dive into your subconscious and have a short self therapy session. Anything that has been taking up RAM in the background of your thoughts is sure to bubble to the surface, and working through these issues can lead to a much quieter mind. If this sounds silly to you, you probably need it more than anyone. Try it, you may be surprised what comes up.
So get to your calendar, pencil in that free time, and next time your boss asks you to cover extra work, or even worse, to join them for an after work event, you have the perfect excuse: “Sorry guy, my calendar’s chalk full!”