How to Trick a Work-Obsessed Brain Into Using up Your Free Time

Obviously, at this point, we know that there is no such thing as “work-life balance.” During a pandemic, there never was and certainly never will be. And then there is “work a lot, play a lot.” Remember that old chestnut tree? It was assumed that the harder you work, the richer and more enjoyable your leisure time will be.

But so many people never made it to the “playing hard” stage and were stuck in a loop where they worked hard and then even harder — even when they were supposed to play at least a little (for example, on vacation). We are so trained to value productivity over everything else that many of us feel guilty or anxious when we do something purely for pleasure.

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

How to convince yourself to find free time

Of course, you can “love” what you do for a living, but ideally you will have other interests as well. And the fact of the matter is, you probably would like to spend some free time – and perhaps even planned it in the past. But when it comes to closing your laptop and putting your phone down, that nagging voice in your head always wins, saying, “You really need to work right now.”

This is where Neo’s strategy comes in. She realizes that while the technically purpose of leisure is to take a break from the chores and simply have fun, for many people this is easier said than done. Per Neo :

Let’s start with small steps and capture them for some purpose. How can this leisurely activity help you? Maybe it has something to do with your goal of getting healthier, or you are exploring places to improve your photography skills.

If you really enjoy an activity and enjoy other results, it will be easier for you to prioritize your free time.

The idea is to move on to more hardcore relaxation from here, but this approach can help those who still believe that they need to be productive in some way every minute of the day.


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