We spend a good chunk of time worrying about how we’ll be the most productive at work. But, we rarely think about how we’ll get the most out of our time-off — whether if it’s a vacation when you’re home for the night, or during a break at work.
However, the most successful people aren’t just diligent about their work schedules. They’re only as serious about their downtime as well. This way, they’re not wasting any valuable time and are still able to squeeze the most out of every day will still growing, learning, and getting that much-needed break from work.
If you need some inspiration on where to start, then are 12 productive ways to spend your free time.
1. Volunteer and serve.
Spending your free time helping others or improving your community isn’t just noble. It’s also beneficial for others and yourself. For instance, improving the environment, giving a voice to the less fortunate, and makes you feel like a member of a team. What’s more, volunteering can give you a self-esteem boost, develop new skills, and expand your network.
There are about five ways that volunteering helps you to do well — while you’re doing good. In other words, volunteering can bolster your portfolio, reputation, and get you a little good publicity. And, it’s one of the best ways to get your mind off of work since you’re focusing on others and not your business.
2. Learn something new.
Whether if it’s taking a class, learning a new skill on your own, or exploring your neck of the woods, there are plenty of excellent reasons why you should learn something new every day, such as:
- Enhancing your quality of life.
- Reducing stress and improving your mental health.
- Socializing with others.
- Gaining confidence.
- Discovering, or rediscovering, something that we’re passionate about it.
- Having fun or unwinding.
- Gaining new perspectives and knowledge that you can apply at home or work.
3. Cultivate social connections.
“Time spent connecting with others tends to be the happiest part of most people’s day, and experiences that are shared produce greater happiness than those experienced alone,” writes Ashley Whillans, Michael I. Norton, and Cassie Mogilner Holmes for Quartz. “High-quality social relationships are essential for mental and physical health.” Meta-Analyses even “suggest that the health benefits of social connection are comparable to those of exercising regularly and not smoking.”
While you can’t go wrong with spending quality time with friends, family, and business connections, don’t rule out fleeting social interaction. For example, having a chat “with one’s Starbucks barista or a fellow commuter on a bus can make people feel connected and therefore bolster happiness.”
4. Take care of your health and wellbeing.
At this point, I don’t think you need to be reminded of the benefits of exercising. You’ve heard it all a million times before. However, physical activity does more than prevent health concerns like obesity and heart disease. It can also alleviate stress, ward off depression, and even increases your productivity — mainly because it improves alertness and energy.
The thing is, you don’t need to hit the gym for a couple of hours each day to reap these benefits. After all, any type of activity that gets you moving is better than nothing. So, maybe every afternoon during a break or after dinner, you go outside for a walk. Do some yoga or have more walking meetings.
And don’t forget to take care of your mental health as well. Doing things like meditating, talking to a friend on the phone, or treating yourself to a spa day fights back against stress and ensures that you’re addressing your needs.
5. Read — a lot.
I always carry a book with me. In this way — when I have some free time, like waiting for an appointment, I can read. In case you weren’t aware, reading is perhaps one of the most productive ways to spend your time. That’s because reading can:
- Boost your brainpower.
- Increase your vocabulary.
- Improve your memory, concentration, and imagination.
- Reduces stress.
- It helps you become a better writer.
- Makes your more empathetic.
Would you like to know how you can read about 300 books a year? How many books have you read this year? You don’t get down on yourself if you haven’t been reading. Just start now and see how many you can read before the end of the year.
According to the University of Texas at Austin psychologist and researcher James Pennebaker, regular journaling has been found to strengthen immune cells. Other research shows that it can also be used as an effective stress management tool and decrease the symptoms of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.
Moreover, journaling also allows you to clarify your thoughts and feelings. It also helps you get to know yourself better, solve problems more effectively, and help you resolve conflicts. And, through journaling, you’re able to track patterns, trends and improvement, and growth.
7. Have a hobby.
Every successful person spends their downtime on something that they enjoy that’s outside of work. For example, Bill Gates loves to play bridge, Warren Buffett plays a mean ukulele, and Steve Wozniak plays Segway polo.
Whatever leisure activity you choose, it’s often associated with many benefits like a stress reliever, encouraging you to take a break and enrich your perspective. They can also promote mindfulness, strengthen relationships, and can even provide an additional revenue stream. Not enough? Depending on the exact hobby, they can also assist you in developing skills like leadership, innovation, communication, and can improve the executive function on the brain.
8. Find an additional stream of income.
Cash flow is a serious concern for entrepreneurs — especially when attempting to get your startup up and running. As such, it wouldn’t hurt to use a little bit of your free time to bring in a little extra cash. Ideally, this should be a passive income so that you’re pretty much-making money while you sleep. But, getting a part-time gig gives you the chance to sharpen your skills, make new connections, or gain feedback from potential customers.
9. Reflect on your accomplishments.
Benjamin Franklin had an impressive daily routine. Every morning he asked, “What good shall I do today?” At night, he would ask, “What good have I done today?” Answering these ensured that Franklin had a productive schedule, it also allowed him to end the day reflecting on his accomplishments.
Celebrating your accomplishments releases endorphins. As a result, you feel excellent, both mentally and physically. It also tightens the relationships you have with your team, business partner, family, or friends. And, it makes you feel like a winner, which in turn, attracts even more success.
10. Get your house and office in order.
To get your house and office in order — sounds ominous. What I mean is that you should spend your free time keeping your home and workspace clean and organized. Take the time now to set up your office properly. You don’t necessarily have to be a neat freak. But, besides the sanitary advantages, you’ll eventually get more things done. You won’t waste time looking for misplaced items, and your mind won’t get distracted by the clutter.
On top of cleaning and organizing, you could also get your home or office in order by doing all those little tasks you’ve been putting off. I’m talking about getting your inbox in-check, returning phone calls, updating contact or finance information, or making doctor’s appointments.
11. Recharge your brain.
Your brain needs to rest. I know some successful individuals like Elon Musk boast about the number of hours they put into their business. But, the fact is that taking a breather can lower your risk of diseases, increase your happiness, boost your energy, and help prevent burn out.
Whether if it’s meditating daily, going camping for the weekend, or closing your eyes and listening to some relaxing music, you need to make this a priority. You’ll thank me later.
12. Focus on your goals.
“Take 10 minutes to think about your goals, personal and professional,” suggests Leo Babauta, founder of Zen Habits. “If you don’t have a list of goals, start on one. If you’ve got a list of goals, review them,” he adds.
Additionally, jot down “a list of action steps you can take over the next couple of weeks to make these goals a reality.” And, determine the “action step can you do today,” continues Babauta. “The more you focus on these goals, and review them, the more likely they will come true.”