In Japan, they have a condition called “karoshi”. Karoshi means “death due to overwork” and it is common enough that they actually have an organization for it, the National Defense Counsel for Victims of Karoshi. The group claims nearly 10,000 Japanese die from overwork each year.
Clearly, having a day off isn’t such a bad thing.
The need to relax and take a break from work isn’t a symptom of laziness. It’s a requirement for your body. However most people’s time off isn’t the most enjoyable part of their week. In the book Flow, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, reports that studies show people to be happier at work–even while saying they would rather be at home.
I believe the problem is that most people don’t put much thought into how they spend their days off. Work, even if you hate your job, at least provides a constructive mental environment. Leisure, if no thought is applied, often ends up a complete waste being sucked into Saturday afternoon reruns or googling yourself on the internet.
How to Combat Wasteful Leisure
This blog has a lot of articles about productivity. In other words, thinking about how to work better. But equally important is the art of laziness. Thinking about how to relax better so you can get the most energy, stress-relief and creative energy to apply back to the next week.
Like different jobs, everyone will have different activities they enjoy relaxing to. Even the same person will have different activities. I enjoy reading books and having quiet days, but I also enjoy going out with friends and having a fun time.
No matter how you like to relax, I believe there are some common principles for doing it better. Here would be my suggestions for practicing the art of laziness:
- Divide Your Work and Leisure Time – Draw a line separating time you have off and time you have for work. Polluting one side tends to damage the other. When you start working on your days off, your body starts being lazy during your workday to compensate. One strategy I’ve used to combat this is to commit only to work during a certain time period. This isn’t always possible, but it can help combat the tendency to mix work and pleasure.
- Plan Ahead – Some people can work without to-do lists, planning or goals. Other people need structure to get them to move forward. Similarly, some people can be completely spontaneous in their days off. If you’re like me, however, you probably have more fun when you plan fun things to do–even if you don’t follow them perfectly.
- Keep Your Bookshelf Full – I strive to always have a book available to read. If you enjoy reading, this can be an easy way to avoid wasting your days off. If you don’t enjoy reading, that’s okay too–days off are about relaxing, not productivity.
- Keep an Events Calendar – Whether you like heavy-metal concerts or art exhibits, keep a calendar that can store potential activities you might like to take part in. Unless you need to buy tickets well in advance, this planning will ensure you aren’t ever out of options for interesting things to do.
- Join Clubs and Classes – Not classes for your degree, but classes for cool things you’ve always wanted to try. Dancing, martial arts, cooking, public speaking or playing an instrument are all available. Learning without pressure can be relaxing as it takes your mind off results and onto process.
- Have a Slow Day – Throw away the time-management books for one day and aim to be as slow as possible. Wake up early and spend an hour cooking breakfast, two hours reading and walk everywhere instead of driving. It can be refreshing to aim for the opposite of a typically busy lifestyle.
- Meditate – Meditation doesn’t need to mean sitting uncomfortably on a bamboo mat for three hours. It can just mean having some extra time with your thoughts. Sort out all those ideas that have been jumping around in your head but you haven’t had time to think through.
- Look at the Big Picture – Spend an entire day reviewing your life’s trajectory. What is going well and what isn’t? Use an entire day to plan, set big goals or completely alter your approach. These days can inject new energy into goals that might otherwise lose motivation over time.
- Connect – Go through your e-mail inbox and send a message to several people you haven’t talked to in a few months. Call up old friends and drop people messages to meet up. Don’t let your relationships wither and die because you are too busy to invest your time.
- Work Hard, Play Hard – Make your most intense workday the one before your day off. This gives you an incentive to complete more and work harder, knowing you have the entire next day to relax.
- Half and Quarter-Day Vacations – Sometimes an entire day off is impossible. Your schedule simply won’t allow a complete day off. Try to squeeze in either a half or quarter day vacation in. That means that from noon until bed or six until ten will be your time. This is better than trying to squeeze in break times every few minutes to compensate for a lack of time off.