Time management advice often talks about the important of having a schedule. When you’re at work, the plethora of meetings, conference calls and to-do lists probably provide a lot of structure. Whether you are actually getting things done is another story.
But have you ever given any thought to scheduling your leisure time? Many of us find it all too easy to let our evenings and weekends fall into a comfortable – and often rather boring or unsatisfactory – routine. To get the most out of both your work and your play, try some of these ways of giving your leisure time a little structure too.
- Scheduling Leisure Time During Your Day
If you’re a student or freelancer, you probably have a fair degree of flexibility about when you do your work. You may also find that there are times when you try to micro-schedule your work, but you still end up procrastinating, working much more slowly than you know you should, and rushing things at the last minute.
The answer is often, paradoxically, to stop worrying about scheduling your work time and start building in some time for fun instead. For example, if you tend to start work at 8AM, schedule yourself a break for 10AM (and plan something that you genuinely want to do – perhaps a walk round a favorite park, or watching an episode of a TV program you love). Having a concentrated two hours to work in will help you focus and challenge yourself to see how much you can get done in that time.
This is also a good method to prevent your productivity from nose-diving because you’ve been trying to focus for too long at a stretch.
- Scheduling Leisure Time In The Evening
Whether you work for an employer or for yourself, it’s a good idea to give some thought to your evenings. As a freelancer who can work at any time of the day or night, I know how easy it is to get sucked into “just one more thing” after dinner. And for many office employees, email and other company systems are available outside work hours. If the only other attraction in your evening is the television, it’s easy to get caught up working.
Try planning for at least one or two evenings a week where you schedule time to do something different. Maybe it’s going out for a nice meal (not just grabbing takeout to eat while in front of your computer). Perhaps you’ll finally catch that play or movie you’ve been wanting to see. Or maybe you just want to snuggle up on the sofa for an hour and spend some quality time with your partner. The important thing is that you plan ahead – this gives you something to look forward to during your busy day, and it makes it much more likely that it’ll actually happen.
- Scheduling your leisure time is particularly important when you have a big project that you want to get moving on, or keep up with. For example, if you’re trying to write a novel this year, you might schedule an hour on Mondays and Thursdays to write in the evening. Or if you’re launching a small business to bring in some side income (as many people are thinking of doing in the current economy), you could make sure you always spend the half-hour straight after dinner working on this.
- Scheduling Leisure Time At The Weekends
Do your weekends end up involve sleeping late, a feeling like you’ve wasted half the day, a ton of chores, and some dull television? Instead of just waking up on Saturday and having no idea what you want to do, try planning ahead. If you’ve got something exciting to do during the day, you’ll be much more motivated to jump out of bed and get on with it – and the thought of a fun-packed weekend can get you through a busy or dull week at work.
One of the best things about scheduling your weekend is that you’ll have something to look forward to. The anticipation of a leisure activity can be almost as fun and uplifting as the activity itself.
You might also be surprised to find that when you do block out a chunk of time for something – a day trip, perhaps – everything else that needs to be done will fit in around it. Perhaps you’ll get up early to do the laundry, or maybe you’ll give the kitchen a quick clean on a Friday night.
And if planning your weekends ahead of time feels too regimented and strict for you, then plan for spontaneity! Decide that you’ll spend, say, noon till bedtime on Saturday doing something purely for fun – and make it happen.
Do you schedule your leisure time, or do you just take life as it comes? Do you like to have something to look forward to (whether it’s a coffee with a friend at 11am, or a big weekend away) – or do you prefer to go with the flow?