It occurred to me this week that there’s (at least) one activity that, perhaps counterintuitively, is a foundation of work/life balance and productivity: recreation.
While coaching a client this week and introducing Stephen Covey’s Urgent/Important quadrant system for prioritizing and completing tasks, I explained that true recreation — something that’s re-energizing, that “re-creates,” rather than passive activities like vegging out in front of the TV — is a Quadrant II activity: not urgent, but important. It isn’t urgent because there will never be a requirement to enjoy recreation. No one will ever request you to “recreate” on their time schedule, and no law firm partner will ever drop by late in the afternoon and apologize for asking you to put in a few hours of recreation that night. (Absurd image, isn’t it?) But it’s vitally important.
What “true recreation”? It varies from person to person. Perhaps it’s writing, gardening, skiing, going to or performing in the theater, playing with children, doing volunteer work… Whatever it is that takes a person from his ordinary self into a state of flow, where time passes without notice and the end result is production of energy, enthusiasm, a rounded person. The key point is that true recreation creates balance and energy, both of which lead to increased productivity in the office. And that’s what makes it important.
For those of you who are inclined to try an experiment, give this a shot: if you typically eat lunch at your desk, try going out instead. Spend 30 or 45 minutes at a museum, in a park, talking with a friend, whatever you enjoy. And then see whether you’re more productive than usual when you get back to your desk in the afternoon. Or take several hours over the weekend to engage in recreation, and notice the effects when you get back to work.