There is growing pressure to spend our free time improving ourselves or the world around us, whether it’s training for a triathlon, volunteering, or starting your own podcast. Why is it so hard for us to relax unless we feel we’ll have something productive to show for it? In the past, being able to idle away your time enjoying the finer things in life was actually sought after – think Downton Abbey or The Great Gatsby.
Over the course of several studies, researchers found that the majority of Americans today consider being busy a status symbol. This obsession with productivity and efficiency has spilled over from our professional lives to our leisure time. As success and busyness at work have become the primary source of our identities and social status, there is growing pressure to spend our free time in productive pursuits. Is there any way to escape our fixation on busyness and allow ourselves to relax?
Enter the functional alibi
While we may not be able to completely unlearn the “productivity orientation”, research from Georgetown University suggests that reframing how we think about leisure pursuits can help. Having a “functional alibi” that articulates a purpose for an activity lets us indulge with less guilt. For example, a relaxing week at the beach might be seen as a necessary break to recharge and return a better worker, parent, and friend.
Companies are realizing the fact that more time focusing on productivity does not always equal higher productivity overall. For example, more and more businesses are implementing a four-day work week for this very reason. At the end of the day, our physical and mental well-being is more important than any extra-curricular activity out there, so put functional alibi’s into practice to allow yourself the time to embrace leisure time guilt-free.