How to Trick Your Work-Obsessed Brain Into Taking Actual Leisure Time

How to Trick Your Work-Obsessed Brain Into Taking Actual Leisure Time
Photo: PhotoSunnyDays, Shutterstock

Clearly, at this point, we know there’s no such thing as “work-life balance.” There never was, and there definitely isn’t now, during a pandemic. And then there’s “work hard, play hard.” Remember that old chestnut? The assumption was that the harder you work, the more plentiful and enjoyable your leisure time will be.

But so many people were never able to move onto the “play hard” stage, and have been stuck in a cycle where they work hard, and then harder — even when there’s supposed to be at least a little bit of play (like on a vacation). We’ve been so conditioned to value productivity over everything else, that many of us feel guilty or anxious when we do anything purely for enjoyment.

In an article for Well+Good, Dr. Perpetua Neo, a clinical psychologist shares a strategy to help us trick our work-obsessed brains into taking some leisure time. Here’s what to know.

How to convince yourself to take leisure time

Sure, you can “love” what you do for a living, but ideally you’ll have some other interests, too. And the thing is, you probably would love to enjoy some leisure time — and may have even scheduled some in the past. But when it comes to actually closing your laptop and putting down your phone, that nagging voice in your head saying “you should really be working right now” always wins.

That’s where Neo’s strategy comes in. She understands that while technically, the point of leisure is to take a break from the productivity grind and simply enjoy yourself, that’s easier said than done for a lot of people. Per Neo:

Let’s start with baby steps and hijack it with an aim or goal. What will this leisurely activity help you with? Maybe it’s intertwined with your goal of getting healthier, or you’re exploring places so you improve your photography skills.

If you really enjoy an activity and happen to enjoy other outcomes alongside that, that’ll make it easier for you to prioritise your leisure time.

The idea is to move onto more hardcore leisure from here, but this framing may help those still convinced that they have to be in some way productive every minute of the day.

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