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  • Kimiko Ebata

The Importance of Recreation for Professional Re-Creation


A year after the pandemic abruptly brought our worlds to a screeching halt, the thought of returning to the previous grind of our pre-pandemic lives, for many (myself included), has laid to rest those old feelings of FOMO and has provoked a new fear of normal or “FONO” as I see it.

Though my weekdays remain a WFH juggle, I now find myself more confused than ever when it comes to my own free time. I dread the thought of returning to the days when time felt scarce, and my frenetic schedule felt overwhelmed with activities and appointments that feel obligatory and unwelcome. In terms of my own personal life, had the pandemic made me apathetic to these old sources of joy? Or have I now settled into a preferred way of being? More broadly, how do I view and value my own free time at present?

This shift has given us a chance to forge a new way of life, one that addresses the needs of our own mental and physical health. By spending time doing the things that you love, studies show that you enhance your own personal happiness, while also boosting some of the most desirable skills in the workplace. These include your creativity and confidence levels, in addition to the new perspectives that you gain from experiencing a renewed sense of joy.

Here are three things that I encourage you to consider when reflecting on your own free time as you shape your “new (and better) normal.”

Dream

As I revel in this slower pace and free space, I’ve started to strive for the idea of “time affluence,” a principle created to help ensure that I am filling my life with the things that deserve to be there. I'm sure many people coming up on the end of the academic years are giving or getting performance reviews, a time when you look over your successes and your “opportunities for growth.” While I think these serve an important purpose, I think it is more effective to do this looking forward. Pretend that it’s the end of next year and you are giving yourself a performance review, and it’s been an amazing year personally and professionally. What three to five things did you do to make it extraordinary?

Prioritize

I sat down and did the math: there are 168 hours in a week (24 hours x 7 days in a week), which is a lot of time. If you work approximately 40 hours a week, sleep 8 hours a night (accounting for a total of 56 hours), you are left with 72 hours a week for other things. If you have a side hustle and work closer to say 50 hours a week, that leaves you with 62 hours a week to work with to start making the magic happen. This underscores the fact that time is not the problem; the issue is the way that you prioritize your free time. Even if we are busy, we have time for what matters. On Friday afternoon, sit down and map out when you are going to prioritize those three to five things in the coming week that will make your next year extraordinary to ensure that your commitments are balanced and your time is evenly distributed.

Be Mindful

Whether a leisure activity involves hiking outside, doing yoga, or creating art, allow yourself to fully unplug and just be during this designated free time. Studies have proven that finding activities that lead to a state of flow is key if you’re looking to increase your creativity and happiness. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), this state can be defined as “an optimal experience arising from intense involvement in an activity that is enjoyable.” Find novelty in treating yourself to this unstructured opportunity, giving it your full attention and allowing yourself to not be fed by information or an ultimate purpose. If you do decide to measure the experience in any way, make sure to set your bar low and to forgive yourself if your expectations aren’t met. It is important that you use this opportunity to cultivate positive associations with yourself and this free time, ensuring that it doesn’t become a launching pad for your own perceived deficiencies.

As we imagine post-pandemic life, are we fully preparing ourselves for the social, work, and personal changes to our relationship with time that will inevitably take place? Research shows that happiness leads to success in more than one way, so when you find time to go out and play this Memorial Day weekend, make it guilt free, as we all have something to gain from it.