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How to justify leisure?

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Could anyone offer advice or insights about how to justify and allow oneself time for leisure?

I am overtaxing myself, not only with my career but also with several outside interests that I've turned into small businesses. Many times I feel compelled to stay up until 2:00 AM being productive-- updating my business website, making new crafts, seeking out new places to advertise, etc. When I'm eating dinner, I'm simultaneously reading or cutting out labels for the craft business, etc. I don't allow myself down time. The problem is I no longer feel able to relax, and feel GUILTY about doing anything just "for fun." Hobbies that I used to simply enjoy, I now only see as potential business opportunities, and feel like I should pursue them to make money. So begins another business venture, on top of the ones that I'm already sacrificing health for in order to pursue. Obviously this pattern is harmful because of the toll that overwork takes on our health. But what is the error? If "productive achievement is [man's] noblest activity," how can we excuse a moment of relaxation? How does one feel worthy of the day without being constantly maximally productive? Appeals to "moderation" don't seem right; if productiveness is a virtue, shouldn't it be pursued all the time? How can we feel pride and self-esteem if we spend so much as 30 minutes a day watching a TV show we like, or looking at a YouTube music video, or even talking with friends? Shouldn't our friends admire us for our accomplishments, and hence we need more and more achievements to prove our worthiness? Something is wrong here but I can't figure out what! Any insights from Rand or self-help psychology would be appreciated. :-)

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Don't have exact quotes or pages, but in the Fountainhead, Roark actually has quite a lot of downtime. I mean after all, the book BEGINS with him laying out in the sun by a lake doing absolutely nothing.

It also describes the sheer pleasure he gets from letting the hot water in the shower just run into him after working all day. He spends a lot of time doing nothing in his office waiting for calls, in which case I imagine if it were today, he would be playing around on his iphone.

I also recall a line when he's just hanging out with Dominique and Gail at their house where it describes him sprawled out in the grass like a cat. Granted on that same trip, he keeps his sketch book and is drawing a lot, but they aren't actual jobs, he's just practicing for fun.

And of course he takes a pretty long yacht vacation with Gail toward the end.

I realize this doesn't really provide any advice, but I think it's cool to imagine such a productive, genius mind, a mover, just laying around in the sun because it "feels good". I don't remember the exact wording, but it actually says that he was just feeling the sun on his body and enjoying it.

I think when I read that I realized for the first time what a lot of people do, which is mindless leisure as an escape from their world. In contrast to someone like Roark, who although has the same leisure time, somehow enjoys it more. It's like a reward. An acknowledgment of his busy life, not an escape from it.

So basically the point it is: Dammit man, go get a beer, turn on netflix and hang out in your underwear for crying out loud!

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Leisure should be a reward for productive activity. I work approximately 50 hours a week (give or take) eight months of the year, so I take advantage of the summer months which are generally less stressful and do not have significant deadlines. That times off is a both a reward for what I've accomplished the previous few months and some time to recharge for the next cycle.

If you work hard and achieve a goal, your mind needs time to recharge and focus on things. I find that reviewing work on Fridays, for example, is a huge waste of time. Instead, I generally perform my admin work on Friday (which doesn't take much brainpower) which detaches myself from the engagement so I can see things in a different/new light on Saturday or Monday.

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I think she addressed the OP's question in the Carson interview. Seek it out, it's worth the time. Speaking for myself, I often solve tougher work problems in my downtime, the answers just come to me out of the blue while cooking, listening to music or (Egad!) reading and posting on OO.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B-GZKDdjb4k

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My immediate impression is that from what you wrote NewEdit that you are approaching productivity as your primary if not only goal, where happiness or even individual value is taken as a distraction. Plus, anything less than working towards a business venture seems to you as inherently unproductive. Your mistake appears to be what you consider productivity to be. Productively usually means putting effort towards your goals to create a life that aids your life and happiness, rather than expecting the good life to fall out of the sky. Personal achievements of writing a magnum opus novel, for example, won't just materialize by will alone. On top of that, the achievement is even more fundamental - it can give pride and pleasure to accomplish something that improves your life which you acquired by your own efforts and staying on track in life.

Productivity doesn't cease when fun enters the picture. You don't become a zombie the moment you deviate from a career goal. Watching a movie for enjoyment can have productive ends to it by the fact you are seeing different ideas in action, which can have a positive impact on your depth of ideas and perspectives. Doing a crossword puzzle allows you to use your mind in complex ways that's still fun, and not stressful. Taking a walk outside and focusing on the experiences around you, rather than thinking about your next business decision or term paper in school. Your mind benefits from just taking in the percepts around you, taking in the experience for what it is without distraction. There are health benefits, on top of the enjoyment you get. Listen to music for emotional perspective it can give you. All combined, various leisure activities are productive to the degree your are still pursuing life, you still have a long-term context in mind. Balance of course is difficult, and figuring that out takes experience.

I disagree with CptnChan about how he imagines a person like Roark today would be playing around with their iPhone. Waiting is often good, allowing one to organize thoughts and stay in control by relaxing. You'd fall into a trap of always needing to "do something", which isn't always so healthy. I suppose it depends on what the particular activity was. Jumping from activity to activity endlessly is a modern way of living that I think is ultimately unhealthy.

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I disagree with CptnChan about how he imagines a person like Roark today would be playing around with their iPhone. Waiting is often good, allowing one to organize thoughts and stay in control by relaxing. You'd fall into a trap of always needing to "do something", which isn't always so healthy. I suppose it depends on what the particular activity was. Jumping from activity to activity endlessly is a modern way of living that I think is ultimately unhealthy.

There's nothing wrong with having leisure devoid of any productivity or intellectual stimulation.

I think in the Tom Snyder interview, Ayn Rand called it "creative waste" of time. In other words, if you're going to have some time off from work, it doesn't have to be spent doing a crossword puzzle, or even focusing on your environment to get something out of it. Sometimes hanging out at the beach and sticking your feet in the sand just simply feels good, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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In other words, if you're going to have some time off from work, it doesn't have to be spent doing a crossword puzzle, or even focusing on your environment to get something out of it. Sometimes hanging out at the beach and sticking your feet in the sand just simply feels good, and there's nothing wrong with that.

I think it's more than being OK -- I think it's actually helpful, or necessary in an optimal sense. It seems counter-intuitive, but if I spend time aimlessly or "mindlessly" doing something just because it's fun or I feel like it, when I go back to an activity that's "productive" I have new ideas and feel better about every aspect.

Of course, then there's the viewpoint that the productive and fun things you do should actually be one in the same. More and more I'm thinking this is the actual truth of the matter.

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Yeah, it's important to find a balance between work and play that works for you. I know some nursing students who get a kick out of studying 10-15 hours a day, and would go stir-crazy without that work schedule.. (oddly enough, they're 10x more active in other areas of life than most people I know). But that same schedule would kill me. Maybe this difference is the result of the work ethics we were raised with - we're creatures of habit. In some countries, kids are at school practically all day, and are taught Caulcus in the first grade. Here, you close the books after your homework is finished and spend the rest of the night watching movies or playing games. It's like a whole different world.

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Could anyone offer advice or insights about how to justify and allow oneself time for leisure?

I am overtaxing myself, not only with my career but also with several outside interests that I've turned into small businesses. Many times I feel compelled to stay up until 2:00 AM being productive-- updating my business website, making new crafts, seeking out new places to advertise, etc. When I'm eating dinner, I'm simultaneously reading or cutting out labels for the craft business, etc. I don't allow myself down time. The problem is I no longer feel able to relax, and feel GUILTY about doing anything just "for fun." Hobbies that I used to simply enjoy, I now only see as potential business opportunities, and feel like I should pursue them to make money. So begins another business venture, on top of the ones that I'm already sacrificing health for in order to pursue. Obviously this pattern is harmful because of the toll that overwork takes on our health. But what is the error? If "productive achievement is [man's] noblest activity," how can we excuse a moment of relaxation? How does one feel worthy of the day without being constantly maximally productive? Appeals to "moderation" don't seem right; if productiveness is a virtue, shouldn't it be pursued all the time? How can we feel pride and self-esteem if we spend so much as 30 minutes a day watching a TV show we like, or looking at a YouTube music video, or even talking with friends? Shouldn't our friends admire us for our accomplishments, and hence we need more and more achievements to prove our worthiness? Something is wrong here but I can't figure out what! Any insights from Rand or self-help psychology would be appreciated. :-)

I don't think you are misunderstanding Objectivism in any way, actually. In fact I think you are spot on. You are absolutely right, productiveness is the most noble virtue, and should be pursued above all else. In fact I find your sense of life and work ethic refreshing, because it's rare even among Objectivists. I wish my problem was that I work too hard.

But I spotted one obvious flaw in your reasoning when it comes to how you put theory to practice: you work at the expense of your health, to maximize productivity. That doesn't make sense: if you were looking to maximize productivity over the course of your lifetime, staying healthy would be a cardinal requirement.

And therein lies your answer: not only about physical health, but also psychological health, including maintaining proper motivation to work (maintaining friendships - and more - with people who share your goals, etc.). Leisure is one of the needs men have, to stay healthy. That is how the virtue of productiveness justifies leisure, all by itself.

So, please, go ahead and watch that TV show, and listen to the music you like. And, even more importantly, pursue hobbies that involve physical activity, to stay physically healthy, and leisure activity that involves human interaction, to stay psychologically healthy. In fact, in your case, these two should be a priority, ahead of your career, for a while (until you strike a healthy balance).

By doing so, you will actually be acting towards the main goal of your life: whatever means you chose to be productive by.

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I think in the Tom Snyder interview, Ayn Rand called it "creative waste" of time. In other words, if you're going to have some time off from work, it doesn't have to be spent doing a crossword puzzle, or even focusing on your environment to get something out of it. Sometimes hanging out at the beach and sticking your feet in the sand just simply feels good, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Ah, I didn't mean that intellectual stimulation should be constant, only that other non-job related activities aren't simply unproductive, crosswords were just an example because I use that as a form of leisure. Hanging out at the beach and enjoying your feet in the sand is plenty fine, and even has psychological health benefits by being mindful of your environment as it is. Time is not being wasted. Or you could chat with a friend about a movie you saw last week, but even that too can help to jog your mind in a relaxed setting. What would be unproductive is consistently taking actions that really go no where, which depends a lot on context.

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I think when I read that I realized for the first time what a lot of people do, which is mindless leisure as an escape from their world. In contrast to someone like Roark, who although has the same leisure time, somehow enjoys it more. It's like a reward. An acknowledgment of his busy life, not an escape from it.

Thanks, I like this.

Are you working so much because you enjoy what you do, or because you want to prove something to your friends?

No, it's not about proving something to my friends or doing activities for the sake of impressing them. It's more along the lines of Dagny's thought, "my wish to be worthy of you..." My friends should like me for a reason. I would not want to be liked unconditionally. But despite activities and accomplishments beyond what others would expect of me, *I* still feel unworthy of enjoying a break from productivity.

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My immediate impression is that from what you wrote NewEdit that you are approaching productivity as your primary if not only goal, where happiness or even individual value is taken as a distraction.

You are absolutely right, productiveness is the most noble virtue, and should be pursued above all else.

Haha.

Nevertheless, I like what both of you wrote.

Nicky, it's interesting about the physical activity... I actually over-exercise, too. :-( Running for fun turned into racing 5Ks, which turned into racing half-marathons, etc.

But it is so nice to read insights that are consistent with Objectivism. Too many (all?) self-help books and therapists I've encountered suggest unconditional self-love, being content with yourself despite doing nothing of which to be proud, and demanding relationships from others because simply existing supposedly makes you worthy of love. Unfortunately, the opposite approach of building self-esteem through accomplishments isn't working either, because the accomplishments never feel "good enough." Anyway, thanks for writing. :-)

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In fact I think you are spot on. You are absolutely right, productiveness is the most noble virtue, and should be pursued above all else.

I'm curious, what do you mean by most noble virtue? I think the meaning of productive is getting lost here, defined to be "work" when it doesn't have to be.

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Productivity at its core is about taking personal responsibility for achieving the values you desire, and this should be interpreted much more widely than simply the values that a career provides. It's about being an active creator of values, not only in the professional realm, but also in the areas of personal relationships, romantic love, and leisure time and hobbies. It's about being a value-achiever, and this might mean forcing yourself to go out and meet new people (when focusing on the values of personal relationships), or working on your communication in a relationship, or even forcing yourself to set aside work and enjoy the value of some downtime. In this last case, taking responsibility for achieving the values of peace and relaxation might require doing nothing (even when this is difficult for you), or purposefully finding a mindless way to pass the time. If those are the values you feel a particular need to focus on, productiveness means that it's up to you to figure out how to attain them.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Speaking for myself, I often solve tougher work problems in my downtime, the answers just come to me out of the blue while cooking, listening to music or (Egad!) reading and posting on OO.

Neurological research actually strongly supports this method of producing good ideas. When we engage in "mindless" physical activities that require us to be very aware of our surroundings, our brains enter a state where we naturally merge ideas from fields we wouldn't have otherwise thought of as related. This is one of the reasons I strongly support a merger between work and leisure and the idea of pay for creation as a better alternative to pay for time.

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