Making time to sit back, relax and enjoy leisure might seem like a grand delusion, hard to put into practise in everyday life.
With things to do and places to be, taking time to recharge, even for a minute, can be thought of as a waste. However, in our always on-the-go work culture, taking a break to recuperate is exactly what we need to keep up with life's constant grind.
Author and Professor of Organizational Behaviour at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, Jamie Gruman, explains in his new book, Boost: The Science of Recharging Yourself in an Age of Unrelenting Demands, why recovery matters and how time for leisure can be effectively used to reverse the draining effects of the day.
Gruman was like so many of us who fell victim to the notion - all work and no play is something to be proud about. That is until a family vacation forced him to reassess how he was spending his time. Instead of taking advantage of some much needed downtime, Gruman used the 10 days off to - you guessed it - work.
“I would always bring work and I would come back and wouldn't feel any different,” Gruman told this correspondent. “I wouldn't feel recharged or replenished and so I needed to make a change.”
That moment of epiphany is what led him to write the book in order to live more intentionally. “This book is about trying to regain, recapture some of that balance I think people have lost,” he explains. His favourite line from the book explains what’s wrong with how most of us are living and why we need to reset. “We've learned to be productive but we've forgotten how to bask,” he writes in the book.
Gruman wants people to understand that it is incumbent on you to use your leisure time wisely and to stop downplaying its value. During his extensive research on the subject, he found a 2006 Germany study discovered taking time to recharge is what caused some people who despite living stressful lives to live longer. "Even if you have a very stressful life, if you're able to recover, get a boost in your leisure time, then you counteract the effect of all the stresses and anxieties and you don't suffer the bad consequences," Gruman explains.
For people who feel guilty for carving out a bit of "me time", Gruman says by doing so "their not shirking their responsibilities, they’re boosting."
He asserts the benefits of “transforming your down time into 'Uptime'” extend far beyond relaxation and spill into your daily obligations. “You become better at those tasks that were draining you in the first place,” he explains. Best of all, getting a boost involves no work. “You don't need to go on vacation to get a boost, if you use your leisure time effectively and make smart choices, even five minutes can make a difference,” he explains. “Small breaks properly used can give you a boost,” he claims.
Effectively using leisure time results in three desirable positive outcomes:
Gruman's ReNU model, which is the core of his latest book, explains the three buckets people need to achieve these outcomes on a regular basis. He shares with us key components of each bucket anyone can apply today.
1. Rebuild: Spend your leisure time rebuilding resources you have used up during work. As an example, Gruman explains: “If someone's a lawyer and their arguing court cases all week, and then on the weekend their coaching their daughter's soft ball team and arguing with parents about who the starting pitcher should be, then their not giving their resources a break, because their using in their leisure time the same resources they were using in their work time.” He recommends engaging in enjoyable activities to allow those resources to replenish themselves.
2. Nourish: It is vital to strengthen and foster the many needs we as humans have, from the physical to the psychological. Nourishing these needs is essential to our well-being and the only way to feel fully recharged. Gruman stresses a physical need like sleep is something we cannot afford to ignore. “Sleep is probably the most important recuperative mechanism that we have. That's why it is considered a need. It's not nice to have, you have to have it,” he said.
In the book, he explains in greater detail how satisfying these three key psychological needs is also very boosting:
- Need for competence -- need to feel skilled by mastering a new talent.
- Need for autonomy -- need to feel your actions are freely chosen.
- Need for relatedness -- need to have high-quality relationships with other people.
3. Unhook Bucket: The final step has two components. The first part is to simply relax. The second half is psychological detachment - switching off from work and mentally leaving the office. Gruman says not "cutting the virtual cord" will create alertness and activation in your mind. "If you don’t psychologically detach you're not filling the unhook bucket and you're not going to get a boost,” he explains.
If you feel like you don't have time to put all this into play, Gruman urges you to re-examine your day and you'll find little pockets of space (getting ready for work or when you just get home from work) when you can apply the ReNU model. And the busier you are the more important it is to make the most out of your down time to keep up with life's hectic pace without feeling the draining effect.
Tips to transform downtime to 'Uptime':
- Think through the three buckets when you get home after work.
- Separate your work life from your social life by having two different phones and social media platforms for work colleagues and friends.
- Discipline yourself and establish boundary management tactics.