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  • Tamar Balkin

Stop, Smell The Roses... And Learn How To Really Experience Leisure.

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

In the spirit of research I headed to the botanical gardens and smelt the roses.

Last week I met with a client, let's call her Sue, she is an ambitious executive who has just received the promotion she had been working towards. We discussed the new role in detail: the strategic responsibilities of entering a new market; the challenges of managing a team who used to be her peers; sitting on an executive team that was based in another city; and the competitors disrupting the market. It was clear throughout out this conversation Sue was excited and engaged. Her new boss is supportive and has kindly given her some excellent leadership books. It was at this point in her description that she paused and looked perplexed, as though she was lost for words. After a few moments of silence she said to me “I am conflicted. I appreciate my boss’s support and am as I really keen to read and learn about leadership. I have been reading the books on the train as I commute to work, they are informative and practical. Yet something isn’t quite right….. the train trip is my leisure time”

Sue’s comment made me pause and reflect, what is leisure time, what makes it so important and how do we protect it?

Leisure can best be conceptualised as an activity that is meaningful and satisfying yet occurs at a time you are free of all other obligations (work, self and family). In fact it is not necessarily the activity that makes it leisure but the spirit in which we do something. For example, imagine you attend the Australian Open tennis final with your family, your best friend or you host high potential clients, the experiences will all be significantly different.

There is research to indicate that leisure time if done properly has many benefits including:

  • Motivation

  • Mental health

  • Physical health

  • Creativity

  • Resilience

  • Social connectedness

  • Happiness and flow

  • Quality of life

  • Self esteem

  • Skill development

  • Adjustment to transitions including, parenthood, retirement, immigration, and even a new job.

Given the importance of leisure you may be wondering what happened with my cleint Sue. To help her solve her conundrum we reflected on the goal of her coaching program: namely to improve the creativity of her team and to shift their mindset that "hard work" should not mean longer work hours. With this context Sue decided to she would continue to read the leadership books on the way to work and her novels on the way home. Much to the surprise of her new team she initiated 'social team meetings', these meetings no formal agenda other than to for her team to get to know each other informally. Sue was acutely aware that the first few social meetings would be awkward and painful and thus she provided props like backgammon, playing cards and a dart board to break the ice. She also encouraged Podcast listening and reading time as regular scheduled diary entries. Through these two changes Sue was able to begin to integrate her leisure values and desire to learn into the habits of herself and her new team.

Whilst work occupies a large section of our waking hours, remember about 21% of our time is free. Actually, in 2016, researchers found Australian’s spent more time in front of the television (18.7 billion hours) than at work (17.7 billion hours). Never the less, public health researchers have ranked “time stress” as one of the most important social trends underlying rising rates of obesity.

So how do we combat the “cult of businesses” and the ensure that work doesn’t cut into our leisure time?

  • Start with an honest definition of leisure time, then look at your diary and see how you actually spend your time.

  • Highlight the unscheduled pockets of times when you are free from obligations. Some will be long like a Sunday afternoon, others may be a mere five minutes, (that time when you are waiting for the bus, the barista to make your coffee, etc. ) either way they are opportunities for leisure.

  • Now plan what you want to do in your leisure time, Ashley Whillans will challenge you to start thinking about how you spend our time to account for it the way we account for our money.

  • It is worthwhile to define your leisure goals and values. (I have put a leisure values quiz on my resources page).

  • Then start brainstorming and researching the leisure activities that matter and interest you, these are the things that will improve your wellbeing rather than distract from it.

  • Don’t forget in the few minutes between commitments you can book in a coffee with a friend, look up the rules of backgammon, or buy a puzzle on line.

As Brigid Schulte explained it’s in those “moments away from work and the getting of doing of daily life, that’s where innovation and creativity lives.”

Some interesting leisure ideas that my client’s are involved in:

  • Become a Raise mentor:

  • Join a free, non-competitive, social running crew

  • Dragon Boat Racing

  • Quilters Guild of NSW

  • Contact your local council and see what programs they have

  • Reading novels

  • Painting

  • Bushwalking



Bora, L, Lawson K.M., Chang, Po-Ju; Neuendorf, Claudia; Dmitrieva, Natalia O; et al. (2015): Leisure-Time Physical Activity Moderates the Longitudinal Associations between Work-Family Spillover and Physical Health, Journal of Leisure Research 47,4

Csikszentmihalyi, M. & LeFevre, J. (1989) Optimal Experience in Work and Leisure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Vol. 56, No. 5,815-822

Whillans A. and Dunn, E. ( 2017) To Promote Happiness, Choose Time Over Money. November 14, 2017

Daley, A. (1999) Work, leisure and well-being.Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology; Leicester Vol. 72, 402-403.

Listen to Ep 114. Brigid Schulte: Overcoming the Overwelm from Work and Life with Stew Friedman in Podcasts.

Listen to Ep 113. Ashley Whillans: Combating Time Poverty from Work and Life with Stew Friedman in Podcasts.

Listen to Bruce Daisley from the WorkLife podcast in Podcasts.

4153.0 - How Australians Use Their Time, 2006

LATEST ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/02/2008

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