If you have time off for the holidays, will you get to spend it doing anything fun? What about your free time this evening—what would make that time feel enjoyable and restorative to you? Here’s an idea: perhaps you need to make sure you have two different kinds of fun.
Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you grab a beer out of the fridge tonight, and sit on the couch with your partner and watch your favourite TV show. You get all of the enjoyment out of that experience right while you’re having it: it’s short-term fun. After the show is over and the beer bottle is empty, your fun is basically over.
But then there’s another way you might choose to spend your free time—let’s call it long-term fun. Maybe you go to the gym, and work on your deadlifts. During each lift, you might not be having much actual fun; those lifts are hard work, and maybe you’ll get fatigued and sore. Or let’s say you decide to bake cookies instead, with your toddler “helping.” Cooking is work, and redirecting a toddler’s energy is more than double the work. Both of these hypothetical evenings are not fun in the same sense as watching your favourite TV show.
But they’re enjoyable in a more long-term sense. You’ll look back fondly on the times you baked cookies with your kid, and you’ll also have a batch of great cookies to show for the experience. If you keep up your gym habit, soon you’ll be lifting more and more, and you’ll be proud of how far you’ve come and how much you can lift. These activities are satisfying, if not exactly fun in the moment.
One theory names these two types of activities casual leisure and serious leisure. I think I’d prefer to call them short-term fun and long-term fun. If you only ever use your free time for things that are enjoyable in the moment, you may end up feeling like you wasted your time. On the flip side, if every spare moment is dedicated to a hobby that is just work in disguise, you’ll start to feel burned out even if all of those projects are worthwhile.
So next time you’re planning out what to do with some time off, make sure you’re accounting for both types of fun. Bake the cookies, but then sit down and eat a few as a family snack. Go to the gym, but then come home and take an excellent bath. Or perhaps you can blend the two types of fun with an activity that leaves you with the lasting knowledge of how to complete a new skill.