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What to do in breaks?

Ironically, jobs are actually easier to enjoy than free time, because like flow activities they have built-in goals, feedback rules, and challenges, all of which encourage one to become involved in one’s work, to concentrate and lose oneself in it. Free time, on the other hand, is unstructured, and requires much greater effort to be shaped into something that can be enjoyed. - Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (Flow)

Its a nagging feeling I get at the end of every weekend that I’ve resolved not to work. Did I enjoy taking the break more than doing the work, were my weekend breaks more fun than my weekdays? Surprisingly, more often than not I’ve come to crave the mundanity or safety net of the weekday, especially at the end of Sunday, realizing the weekend was a blur of things happening that neither left me happy nor rejuvenated.

One interesting thing Cal Newport suggests in Deep Work is our minds crave less for empty blocks of time in our life and more for a change in tasks. What we really want when we mean we need a break is to stop doing the task at hand and do something else. This is a fascinating thought in itself. That means your weekends are more fun if you know what you are going to do in those days as opposed to chilling out on the couch or ambiguously relaxing.

One can even populate the break days (or hours within a day) with tasks that might seem like ‘work’ to others but is basically offering you a contrast from your occupation. When I used to be a techie, sketching or drawing would offer me a good break from my 9 to 5s but now that drawing dominates my working hours, sketching doesn’t contrast so well with my daily life. I find it much fulfilling to ride my bike, write a blog or learn the guitar for example.

What Csikszentmihalyi seems to say is as long as you populate your breaks with tasks that have intrinsic goals and challenges, you can truly lose yourself in it and be physically and mentally away from your ‘work’. Some tasks I can think of are, cleaning your vehicle, arranging your room, playing a sport, learning an instrument, learning any new skill, cycling, fixing a broken object, crafting a toy, etc.


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