Time And How To Spend It Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Time And How To Spend It is your guide to becoming more productive by not focusing on working extra hours but instead using the time off more effectively.

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What are the first words that come to your mind when you hear the word “productivity?” Is it hard work, long hours, or grind? Maybe you think of your job, starting a company, or some books you’ve read on the subject. But how often do you consider the effect that your free time has on how efficiently you work? Surprisingly, the better you spend your time outside of the office, the better work you will do when you are there.

Amid all the books, blogs, and other resources that taut complicated tips, hacks, systems for increasing productivity, James Wallman‘s Time and How to Spend It: The 7 Rules for Richer, Happier Days stands out by diving into an often overlooked aspect of it. Rather than pushing for greater self-discipline at work, applying a little more effort to choosing healthier free-time activities will dramatically improve your work ethic.

Here are the 3 most timely lessons this book gives: 

  1. To be more happy and productive, plan better experiences in your free time.
  2. Science shows that when you turn off your phone and go outside, your mood improves. 
  3. Mindless activities don’t serve us as well as those that put us into a state of flow. 

Are you ready to discover how to use your time better? Let’s begin!

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Lesson 1: Using your downtime wisely contributes to becoming more productive and happy.

Did you know that the average person has over five hours of free time every day? Most of us anticipate not having enough time to do all the activities we want, leisure included. But the numbers show that we have plenty. Why is this? One of the biggest causes is known as the fear of missing out, or FOMO. Additionally, we want so badly to be effective and work as hard as we can, so it seems like we can’t ever get it all done. 

Research shows that happiness comes more from experiences than just about anything else. If you think about the lasting memories and effects of your most recent vacation, for example, you’ll see how true this is. Or if it’s been a long time since your last trip, then you are probably seeing the negative consequences of working too hard without a break. 

Additionally, studies mentioned in The Happiness Advantage show that success doesn’t come before happiness; rather, the opposite is true. Add this all together, and you can see that positive experiences will give you more joy in life, which will make you more successful. In other words, playing will make you more successful.

Lesson 2: Being outside, especially around water, is remarkably good for your health.

In the early 1990s, studies began looking into claims of the health benefits from a Japanese hobby of “forest bathing.” In this practice, people spend dedicated time in the forest as a form of preventative health care. What the research found was shocking. Walking in the woods as opposed to on a treadmill was remarkably more effective at improving mood, blood pressure, and cortisol levels. They also noted decreased fatigue, tension, and anger among research participants. 

One app known as “Mappiness” allowed users to track their mood wherever they were. User inputs combined with GPS data confirmed that people felt the best while they were in nature, particularly when near water. Put down your phone and go outside. Science shows that doing so will make you more productive. 

At my last job, we were fortunate enough to have a small pond at the rear of our office building. I would periodically take five minute walks around the pond, and did so for a few months. In times when work was busy, and I had deadlines to meet, however, I let go of this healthy habit. After only a few days, I could feel my mood and effectiveness waning, and quickly got back to going on my little walks again.

Lesson 3: Take the time to discover what activities put you into a state of flow.

Shouldn’t free time be completely relaxing? Not exactly. According to certain studies, some of our happiest times are when we experience flow. Also known as being “in the zone,” flow is whenever we completely immerse ourselves in whatever we are doing, enjoying the process of it through an energized state of focus. It’s these types of activities that you should focus on during your leisure time. Make an effort to learn what hobbies or interests help you feel flow. 

To see if an activity puts you into flow, check that what you do requires all your abilities, challenges you enough to keep you engaged, and requires the attention of your entire body. While video games, binge-watching Netflix shows, or scrolling through Facebook may initially feel like effective leisure time activities, they are not. Look instead to a hobby like sports, writing, woodworking, or playing an instrument. Focus on what utilizes your skill and attention. Whatever you choose, when you finish, you should feel physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted, but also happy at the hard work that you have done. 

I personally love to play video games. Time seems to fly when I’m playing Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But after I finish, I don’t usually feel satisfied with that way of spending my time. Contrast this with writing, an activity that I love and get paid to do. Whenever I wrap up an article or journal entry, I always feel the satisfaction that can only come from genuinely fulfilling activities.

Time And How To Spend It Review

When I heard the title Time And How To Spend It, I thought I was going to get a book about productivity. I am pleasantly surprised to find that this is about working more efficiently but from the perspective of how we use our time away from the office. These are some exciting principles that have made me rethink my use of spare time!

Who would I recommend the Time And How To Spend It summary to?

The 20-year-old who is paralyzed by the fear of missing out, the 42-year-old business executive who believes that it’s a waste of time to take breaks, and anyone who wants to become happier.

Last Updated on August 24, 2022

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Luke Rowley

With over 450 summaries that he contributed to Four Minute Books, first as a part-time writer, then as our full-time Managing Editor until late 2021, Luke is our second-most prolific writer. He's also a professional, licensed engineer, working in the solar industry. Next to his day job, he also runs Goal Engineering, a website dedicated to achieving your goals with a unique, 4-4-4 system. Luke is also a husband, father, 75 Hard finisher, and lover of the outdoors. He lives in Utah with his wife and 3 kids.