As an incoming freshman college student, I have to-do lists of all varieties: day-to-day, short term, long term, school stuff, extracurricular stuff, family too...the list goes on. While these to-do lists help me stay organized and bolster my work-related productivity, I've found myself unable to successfully decompress or relax when the opportunity arises. And I'm not alone.
The old saying "Work Hard, Play Hard" has become an increasingly elusive ideal to live by in our society filled with to-do lists of all varieties.
And the problem isn't necessarily with the former part of the saying, "Work Hard". In fact, the problem might be that we are working ourselves too hard. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans have increased the average amount of hours worked per week from 7.9 to 8.6 hours. Although there is no shame in hard work, at the point where it is forcing us to overlook the benefits of relaxation, I would be remiss not to address the problem.
But as it turns out, our newfound increased productivity isn't all that bad. What if we were able to take all of this pent-up productivity and apply it to...relaxation? Despite the oxymoronic nature of productive relaxation, given a few modes of relaxation and our innate productivity, productive relaxation is well within our reach.
So, here are a few modes of relaxation that you can feel free to take from:
1. Take a Nap
Sleep is the number one way to relax, both physiologically and mentally. Hitting the reboot button on yourself every once in a while keeps you running smoothly.
2. Take a Hike
Remember 6th-grade gym glass where the gym teacher encouraged you to get 60 minutes of exercise a day? He/she was actually right! Exercise releases endorphins, which in turn induces relaxation.
3. Take a Break
For the same reason that our nightly REM cycle is 90 minutes and we need the full 90 minutes to feel refreshed, most of us can only be productive for bursts of 90 minutes at a time, after which we should take a short break. Work for 90 minutes. Take a break. Repeat.
In the future, whenever free time is on the horizon and empty to-do lists are in my fortune, I will ask myself the question: If I had four hours completely to myself, how would I spend it? It turns out creating a to-do list of what you are going to do to relax is a skill that comes easiest to us, so why not use it to productively relax?
After some self-deliberation, I propose that we take a hint and change the latter part of the saying, "Play Hard", to "Relax Hard".
Work Hard, Relax Hard.
- How Relaxing Makes You More Productive | Big Think ›
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- Top 10 Ways to Relax Productively – YouAlberta – Medium ›
- Relax! You'll Be More Productive - The New York Times ›