I take my entertainment time very seriously. Life is too short for reruns. Maximizing entertainment time might at first seem like a no-brainer. It can’t be that hard to do something you enjoy, is it?
Unfortunately, the evidence seems to show that leisure time is usually wasted. In his book Flow, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi got people to record their feelings of happiness at various intervals in the day. Surprisingly, the times people felt worst were during their off-hours. You aren’t having as much fun as you think you are.
Taking Entertainment Seriously
Most people adopt an unconscious approach to entertainment. Entertainment is supposed to be the break from the problems and challenges of the world. Why would you want to overthink it?
It’s this kind of attitude that makes your free time boring. I advocate a more deliberate approach to maximizing your entertainment. By looking at the problem carefully, as well as analyzing how you actually spend your free time, you can get more fun in fewer hours.
Why Do You Need Entertainment?
Try cutting all forms of entertainment from your life for a year. Do you think you can do it? Probably not. Entertainment and leisure time isn’t just a waste of time. But unless you know what role it plays in your life, it will probably just become empty and boring.
Here are a few functions of fun I did in a quick brainstorm:
- Recover energy. Give your mental and physical batteries a recharge.
- Learn. Games, stories and other forms of entertainment go back to caveman days, where they were important for learning.
- Novelty. Feel, imagine and experience things outside your current awareness.
- Socializing. Who wants to be a hermit?
- Escape. Take a short mental breather from current frustrations.
- Emotional Variety. Great entertainment can make you cry, laugh or scream.
- Skills. Many young animals play. This play helps teach them survival skills in a safe environment. A lot of today’s entertainment is also based on the desire to train yourself.
Your reasons for needing entertainment time probably include at least a few from this list. Maximizing your entertainment requires you to view your time off through each of these perspectives. When you look at your fun in this light, it is easy to see which types add value to your day and which ones are just bad habits.
Analyzing Your Fun
Run a timelog. A timelog is simply a detailed journal that records when you start and stop any activity. Keep a timelog running for at least a week to capture most of the work, routine and fun activities you do. (If you want more advice on running a timelog, read here)
After you finish your timelog, you can split up your leisure time into different categories. You might have a list that looks like:
- Socializing with friends
- Computer/Video Games
- Web Surfing
- Clubs and Organizations
I’ve done similar sorting timelogs in the past and the results are often surprising. Usually the amount of time you perceive to spend on a task and the time actually spent are far apart. You might believe you’ve been working hard, but the timelog tells a different tale. You might feel your entertainment is being used on the activities you find most enjoyable, until you see television reruns topping the list.
Ranking Your Entertainment (Why Television Isn’t Bad For You)
Avoid entertainment snobbery. Entertainment snobs expect you to believe that one form of entertainment (going to the opera) is superior to another form of entertainment (watching the Simpsons). Relying on entertainment snobs to tell you how to have fun is shortcutting your own brain. Think for yourself to determine what the best way to spend your leisure time is.
Pick the top three criteria you believe are important for your entertainment. For myself this would be: learning/novelty, socializing and relaxation. Your list might be different, but those are the three main reasons I need to have fun.
Once you have your three criteria, give a subjective ranking to each of your entertainment categories in the list. Television might not have much learning or socializing for you, but it is a lot more relaxing than playing tennis. Ranking each form of entertainment will help you pick out what you truly find most enjoyable.
Reworking Your Habits of Fun
When you’ve gone through this process, you may be surprised to realize just how much of your entertainment time is spent on activities you don’t enjoy. The next step is to change your habits so more of your time is spent on high quality entertainment and less is spent in boredom.
My suggestion is to avoid simply transferring time from a low-quality source to a high-quality source. This is hard to do because high-quality entertainment can’t be made up for in volume. You might enjoy watching a movie if you go once a month, but it will be less exciting if you went three times a day.
My strategy I used for enhancing my entertainment had two parts:
- Eliminate the wasteful entertainment time. Go on a 30-Day Trial and remove the boredom.
- Explore and add new forms of entertainment. Take up new hobbies, join new clubs or meet new people. Fill the vacancies left by your old activities.
Make your own fun and keep time-drainers from stealing away parts of your life.