How to stop feeling guilty about leisure time

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“I try to take time out for myself, but I just end up feeling guilty every time I do.”

Sound familiar?

This certainly sounds familiar to me. Not because I feel this way myself, but because I hear it from others over and over again.

For many people, this is the biggest obstacle to having truly relaxing, enjoyable time off. (Yes, even bigger than simply having too much work to do.)

So how can you stop feeling this way and actually fully enjoy your leisure time?

My favourite method: cheat

There are of course many ways to address your mindset and to stop feeling guilty about having some time off.

But my favourite way is to cheat: do fun relaxing things but convince your brain that you’re being productive.

Here are some hacks to make downtime feel productive:

  • Turn a hobby into a goal. For example: I set an ambitious goal each year for how many books I want to read. That means that when I sit down with a cup of coffee and read for half an hour I don’t feel like I’ve been faffing around: I feel like I’ve been achieving my goals!
  • Record your progress. One of the reasons that video games are such a satisfying hobby for many is that you know when you’re making progress. (“Level up!” “Achievement unlocked!” “Quest completed!” And even “300 hours played!”) In recent years, fitness trackers have achieved similar results for exercise. How could you track the progress of your favourite leisure-time activity? Could you track cupcakes made, episodes watched, hours logged?
  • Do something literally productive. If you’re not committed to a particular leisure activity, consider one where you’re literally producing something. For example: produce a loaf of bread, a woodwork project, the answer to a sudoku puzzle, or a few hundred words of your novel. It’s hard to feel “unproductive” when you’ve literally created something that wasn’t there before.

That’s it: my favourite hack for feeling “productive” during leisure time.

Do you have a favourite trick for feeling good about taking time out to yourself? Let me know in the comments!


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