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Leisureology 101: The Practice of Applied Leisure

Do you try to fill every waking moment with work, hobbies, or travel? Or do you take time out of your day to simply sit still? Or idly chat with your partner, friends, or neighbors?

I’m guilty of trying to constantly fill every waking moment with things to do. That’s why I’ve begun taking a weekly digital sabbatical. I love working for myself. However, I’ve realized that I don’t have to be plugged-in all the time to be “productive.”

The more I learn and read, the more I realize the act of living simply is a creative process. And by living simply, I can actively practice leisure.

Developing a leisure ethic is not about laziness. It’s about slowing down and taking the time to really think about what it means to live a good life, maintain healthy relationships, and how you can nourish creativity.

At it’s core, crafting a simple, minimalist lifestyle is about creating more time for yourself, friends, family, and community. Decuttering is a great start. But I don’t think you can make any serious life changes, until you actually reflect on where your life is going.

You need leisure time to reflect and to ask yourself big questions, like:

  • Who am I?
  • What am I going to do with the short life I’ve been given?
  • How can I cultivate more leisure time in my life?
  • And once I have extra time, what will I do with it?

Let’s talk about how you can start integrating leisure time in your everyday life:

1. Slow down.

Slowing down is a radical act in the western world. We’ve been conditioned to be constantly on the go; to be “doing” something all the time, rather than just being. Slowing down includes doing things like working less, limiting the number of commitments you take on, and practicing mindfulness.

2. Value time over money.

Money is only paper. Juliet Schor sums up this point perfectly, “true wealth can be attained by mobilizing and transforming the economies of time, creativity, community, and consumption.” Real resources like leisure time and nature can replenish our spirit.

3. Learn to “moodle.”

Brenda Ueland coined the term “moodling” in her book, If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. She said, “imagination needs moodling – long, inefficient, happy idling, dawdling and puttering.” At it’s core moodling is about cultivating your creative muse through non-action and idleness. In essence, developing a leisure ethic is about mastering the art of living.

What would you add to the list?


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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2009. It’s been revised and updated for you!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • DJ December 29, 2010, 7:37 am

    When my workplace told me that I could keep my job and telecommute, but only if I went to 3/4 time, I was very concerned about the loss of income.

    And it’s been hard sometimes.

    But the time I gained for myself is priceless. I was able to start exercising again in the mornings, to have time in the morning to get my kids off to school, time to just slowly start my day without feeling rushed.

    The hardest thing has been fending off the demands of others that I use my precious morning time for something other than my own mental and physical health, but I really don’t want to go down that road and have made that clear enough.

  • Eric December 29, 2010, 7:38 am

    Tammy my friend- great reminder because I too get caught up in a frenzy and I can feel my internal metronome fast beating.

    It’s very important to have some time to decompress. I’m starting to meditate again and can really only manage 5minutes right now, but over a week that’s over 30minutes of pure mindfulness.

    I would add one thing- enjoy nature over Starbucks. It’s ok to read a book in a coffee shop, but why not get out and really enjoy this big ball of beauty we call our world?

    Thanks Tammy!


  • Robin December 29, 2010, 7:43 am

    My fave leisureology activity: long, long walks.

    Thanks for the reminders in this post!

  • Casey Hills December 29, 2010, 7:43 am

    If you accept the idea that our brains and bodies are still designed for a hunter and gatherer lifestyle, then it makes sense that leisure time is important. Hunters and gatherers enjoyed a significant amount of leisure time. This was a time for socializing, sharing, and telling stories.

  • sophanne December 29, 2010, 7:51 am

    I’ve never been let down by spending too much time moodling- I just didn’t know it had a name.

  • Julie December 29, 2010, 8:07 am

    Thanks for this post. Just the other day I asked my husband if he thought it was unproductive that I spent so much of my free time reading. He said “maybe”. I had been puzzled about this one as I think about what I want to accomplish in 2010. I think reading can stay where it is on my list: pretty darn high up there. It helps me destress and learn about new points-of-view, facts and places.

    • Tammy December 30, 2010, 7:48 am

      @Julie – In my opinion, there is never enough time for reading. I’m a huge book worm and reading is one way I recharge my creative juices. I agree with you – keep reading on your leisureology list. 🙂

  • Eric December 29, 2010, 10:06 am

    I’ve found myself reflecting lately on whether I’m wasting time versus using time, which I consider the greatest of assets. I’ve allowed leisure time, a valuable use of time, to become wasted time through allowing myself too much time watching streaming Netflix shows or playing iPad games. Such leisure activities are not inherently bad, but overindulgence results in neglecting other important pursuits.

    • Kara December 29, 2010, 8:19 pm

      I’m on the same page, Eric. Especially after being snowed in over the weekend, I’ve found myself overindulging in Netflix and electronic games on the new Ipad (yes, it’s awesome – hard not to play with a new toy, but still). Anyway, now that I am facing 2 more days of vacation I’m going to put down the electronics and re-join society. You would think zoning out like that would help refresh you, but it actually makes me more lethargic and less likely to get stuff done… whatever that stuff is!

  • Torea December 29, 2010, 10:24 am

    Well said! You’ll see a new post on my blog on a similar topic: My epiphany this holiday season is that I have trouble giving myself permission to play or do anything of leisure. It’s been go-go-go for decades now and its a hard habit to break! Thanks for your weekly inspiration!

  • Marnie December 29, 2010, 11:23 am

    I would add actually scheduling leisure time into your daily routine. Yes, it’s not very glamorous, but for some people it’s the only way.

    I schedule a bath for myself every day/night with scented candles. What a great way to not only decompress but to get the creative juices flowing as well!

  • Jo December 29, 2010, 3:05 pm

    Thanks for reposting this – I missed it first time around.

    I’d add making boundaries for yourself, particularly in terms of work. If you work for yourself, it’s very easy to get involved in your work that you end up committing huge chunks of time to it, especially if you enjoy what you do. It’s easy to forget that putting in long work hours can burn you out and your productivity and creativity suffer as a result.

  • Dawn December 29, 2010, 10:13 pm

    Hey Tammy,
    Sounds like you have completely summed up how to incorporate leaisure into your life more. However I believe you have inspired me to “moodle” (love the word, gonna have to use it more, lol. Confuse the friends n fam. 😉 ) over what the difference is between a lack of motivation and moodling, a decidedly more productive idea.

  • Dan Goodwin December 30, 2010, 3:39 am

    Tammy, I think your fourth bullet point is one that really scares people –

    “And once I have extra time, what will I do with it?”

    Which is a reason why many people keep their lives so crammed and busy, they’re scared of what might happen if they slow down, scared at looking at who they really are and what they want in life.

    If I peel back all these layers, will there be anything left at the core?

    Another related issue is health – a couple of people I know who are very busy and stressed in their work life, both had a few days off over Christmas, and both have come down with nasty flu. It’s no coincedence that this seems to often happen to them when they have time off, and it becomes an unhealthy cycle of oscillating between frantically busy, then physically, mentally and emotionally crashing and and burning when they have time away from their jobs.

    The key of course is to create a life that is far more balanced and includes regular leisure time and downtime, as you suggest and are showing with your own life.

    Ps/ Moodling is wonderful, especially first thing when you wake and have all those fragments of dreams floating around your imagination to venture off on little pathways from… A very creative time.

    • Tammy December 30, 2010, 7:44 am

      @Dan – Thanks for pointing out the “health” related issue. When I worked too much and packed my schedule with meetings and other activities, I would always get sick once I slowed down. And getting sick is no fun.

      I’m all for living a very full life, but it’s essential to incorporate downtime into your life. Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  • Dawn December 30, 2010, 4:29 am

    I call this having “white space” in my life – that time around all the activities, that we need to keep us sane. Similar to how white space is used in print advertising to draw our attention to particular things, so the ad doesn’t become too cluttered and hard on the eyes.

    Great post!

  • Domestic Kate December 30, 2010, 11:03 pm

    I’d say, not as an addition to the list but a prerequisite, that you have to give yourself permissions to have leisure time. I tend to waste a lot of time because while I’m trying to enjoy some free time, I end up worrying about my to-do list. I’ve learned that in order for me to use my time better, I must plan ahead. I spend all my free time thinking, “I should be doing ____.” So, now I make a plan. If I need some leisure time, but I know I have things to do, I tell myself exactly when I’ll get to work. “Today, I’m going to relax and enjoy myself, and tomorrow I’ll get work done.” It’s the only way I can allow myself to slow down and enjoy doing nothing or doing “unproductive” things.

  • Dan Blakely January 1, 2011, 5:54 am

    Amen. We all need to unplug daily and then every once and awhile. I agree that we need to take week or longer digital sabbaticals just to recapture our sanity and our basic connection to the world around us. We did a week long sabbatical about six months ago and the changes coming out of that have been remarkable. We always had cable before, no longer… and we have worked to minimize the daily distractions of the digital world but still recognize them as part of our lives.

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