Do you ‘think smart’ about your downtime?

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss a blog post on how to think smart about your downtime…

When you’re taking time off from writing, what do you do?

Go for a run, perhaps? Garden? Listen to music?

Or, are you more like me and have reading as your primary hobby. This may be a mistake according to Fred Zijlstra, a professor of work psychology at Maastricht University, and Ciara Kelly, a psychologist at Sheffield University Management School in the UK.

As they describe in a post on the 99U website, people who ‘relax’ with activities that are too similar to their jobs end up courting burnout. Here’s how the blog post put it:

For serious hobbies that were also similar to a person’s job, [Ciara] Kelly’s team found that spending too much time on them actually dented confidence at work. “If you get the situation where you’re highly committed to the hobby and it’s just like work, and you’re invested in both sides [play and work], and you spend more time on it, then you get a bit of an adverse impact,” says Kelly. In a sense, if you’re driving yourself hard at work and in your hobby and they’re both pretty similar, you’re effectively spreading yourself too thin.

For those of us who write, a hobby involving exercise may offer more of a respite. According to Zijlstra: “Physical activities work well, in particular when people have a rather desk-bound job, because they require active engagement and they distract the mind from work-related issues.”

So if you want to think smart about your downtime, figure out a way to get your entire body moving — not just exercising your fingers on a keyboard or by turning the pages of a book.