How to change your life – what to do with time off

With more people home than ever before, it’s put a lot of people in the position to start looking at their downtime.

While this blog is not a fan of the “work yourself to death” mentality, it is a believer in the idea that you should be maximizing your time as much as possible.

Time off is essential, but also think of how many times you’ve taken down time and didn’t feel any more relaxed than you did before.

Sometimes, when we truly want different things for our lives, it’s hard to relax. You have big goals and dreams. Not only that, sometimes doing things like active relaxation (getting outdoors, finishing that garage project, building a new piece of furniture) is what your soul needs far above just sitting and playing video games for hours.

This also isn’t to say you should start sacrificing your sleep and become so sleep deprived you’re out of it. That’s not a good place and you can’t mentally make solid choices without a clear head.

If you truly want to change your life and feel better about your days, you must live the strenuous life.

Most of us think we’re relaxing but instead we’re scrolling social media and keeping up with people we don’t even know and barely even like.

On average, people spend two hours scrolling on social media a day. You might feel all high and mighty about not being on Instagram, but if you’re just replacing it with Reddit scrolling, it’s the same thing.

“But I’m learning!” No you’re not. Go DO something.

Yes, this whole shutdown has been traumatic for a lot of people. They’ve lost jobs, they’ve had to isolate, tons of people are dealing with depression, but this is also a golden opportunity for most of us.

If you had an idea for something you wanted to do, now is the time. Yes, work hard and do what you need to do, but channel those hours from gaming or social media into your new hustle.

Those few minutes here and there compounded together creates hundreds of hours over the course of time that gets you closer to where you want to be.

If you’re already happy in life, you don’t need to do any of this. You can simply carry on with what you’re doing. But, if you have big dreams or want to pick up new skills, you need to start taking a hard look at how you use your downtime.

Tracking your time

One way to do this is to start tracking your time. You don’t need fancy time tracking software, just a small pocket notebook will do the trick. Every hour, just jot down what you worked on during that hour.

There is even some computer apps that will give you a daily detailed report on what websites you went to that day. Oh, you don’t have time to work out? Yeah that 4-hour YouTube binge says otherwise.

All of us claim we are “SO busy”, but I haven’t met a single person who wasn’t shocked at what they learned by tracking their time. It’s amazing how many distractions pop up in the middle of our days and take away from what matters most.

There’s a ton of articles out there on how to improve your focus (Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work, is my favorite resource), but some of the basics include:

  • Turning off notifications. Your friends’ text messages can wait and so can every dumb app that is demanding your attention
  • No email during focused work blocks
  • Ruthlessly protect 90 minutes of focused-work time during the day
  • Stop multitasking (people argue this all the time, and if you can truly focus on multiple things at once, you do you, but most of us would be better with a single focus at a time)

Deal with what you have to deal with in your life, but there comes a time when the excuses have to end and the work must be put in.

When you get new opportunities, you must take them.

This time is unlike any other that we have experienced, and if you want to waste it, that’s perfectly fine. Just don’t complain in 10 years when you’re not where you want to be.

Use your downtime with a purpose

Plus, this isn’t even just thoughts during the pandemic. Most people are wildly inefficient with their time, especially their downtime, on a day to day basis.

Once again, this doesn’t mean you never relax. It just means you use your downtime with a purpose.

There is a huge difference between passively relaxing and actively relaxing.

You’ll know the difference because one fills the bucket and one doesn’t. You come away from it feeling renewed and rejuvenated.

Gaming is an easy thing to give a hard time to (even though I game myself, so know I’m writing this with that in mind), but there are endless things that fall into this category: online shopping, watching other people live their dreams, bickering with energy-draining people, going to happy hour at the local bar every single night…

All of these things are good for a balanced life, but if you’re waking up every morning dreading your work or feel so burned out every Friday that you wanna die, something is severely wrong.

Yes, it can be depression, but sometimes it’s also just a matter of building a life that makes you damn proud to wake up in the morning.

What fills the bucket? What do you want in five years?

These are the questions you need to be asking yourself.

Keep track of what makes you feel good after you do it.

This could be journaling, building a project with your hands, knocking out projects that have been sitting in the back of your mind for months, learning an instrument, visiting a new location, taking an online class, catching up with a friend who inspires you… You need to keep a running list of things you think to yourself, “I should do this more, I feel so great right now.”

Once you have that list, you need to block time to do them in your calendar and treat it like a non-negotiable appointment.

This will get you out of the dread cycle of every single week.

From there, you can start to map out what you want your life to look like in five years. Don’t imagine becoming a millionaire overnight, just imagine what would make your time here more exciting. I cannot answer this for you, you need to find these for yourself.

Keep in mind the same rules apply to this as to the filling your bucket list: You MUST make time for it. If you have an abundance of time now, maximize it. Start filling the bucket and laying the foundation for what you want in the future.

That is how you make a life worth living.

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