Whether you’re fortunate enough to spend each day working at your dream job or spend every hour watching the clock, the hours you spend aways from your desk matter just as much (if not more) than the hours you spend at it. Throwing away the hours you spend after you clock out can deeply impact your life. Fortunately, if you are in a rut, there are many ways to make the most out of your time off work.
1. Your life isn’t improving.
Settling for what feels like the status quo is a tell-tale sign that you aren’t spending time making strides to build the life you want to enjoy. If you aren’t seeing any improvement, it’s likely that you aren’t allocating your time toward the pursuit of these goals.
Instead: Write down actionable steps you can take to make your actual life better align with your ideal life. If you want to spend more time with friends, schedule times to reach out in your calendar. If you want to travel more often, create a plan to save money and start booking trips. Wherever you feel your life is lacking, invest time to bettering it.
2. You’ve stopped learning new things.
If you can’t remember the last time you struggled with mastering a new skill, it’s probably been too long. Things are constantly evolving, so our skills should, too.
Instead: Make a list of things you’ve been interested in, and make a point to pursue them. Maybe you’ve always wanted to code or wished you could speak Italian— let your curiosity be your guide! Jump in and learn something that will enrich your life.
3. You aren’t looking forward to anything.
One of the most motivating feeling that can be experienced is knowing something great is going to happen. Whether it’s a trip, product launch, or showcase, working toward something is typically rewarded with some form of pay off. Not having anything to look forward to can be a sign of stagnation.
Instead: Work towards your goals that will have a pay off. Consider what you’re passionate about, and let that line of thinking guide you. Whether you’re creating or consuming, making time to for things you care about can up your happiness and lead to fulfillment.
4. You often feel envious of others.
Do you spend a significant portion of your time wishing you had what others do? Wasting time can lead to more wasting time––if you aren’t doing what you love, you can end up wasting time resenting those you are. Envy is a poison that can ruin relationships and self esteem, and if you’re experiencing it often, you probably aren’t spending time living the life you truly want.
Instead: When you feel yourself experiencing envy, articulate to yourself exactly what the source of your envy is, then work on incorporating more of what you wish you had into your life. Experiencing acute envy can also be a symptom of consuming too much social media, which can create unrealistic expectations. Put the phone down, and remind yourself that reality often differs from the images we see projected online.
5. You complain... a lot.
Everyone has an off day now and then, but when you hear yourself talk, do you find that the words coming from your mouth are increasingly negative? The glass seems half empty, and ragging on yourself, others, and your situation seems to come more naturally than speaking about what you love, who you admire, and what cool things are happening for you. When you aren’t leading the life you want to live, it can feel impossible to see the good in anything.
Instead: Write down the areas where you’re unhappy and develop actionable plans to make improvements. Pick up new skills or devote more time to things you care about. Filling up your schedule with enjoyable things can give you something to gush about and make it easier to be happy for other people.
6.You're burnt out.
Working can drain your energy. Working too much without properly recovering can lead to feeling constantly tired or fed up. One cause of this is not taking time to recharge.
Instead: Everyone has different ways of caring for themselves. For example, some people feel energized by being around others while others find it beneficial to embrace quiet time. Make time for whatever activities replenish your energy in your downtime.
7. You’ve stopped taking risks.
Risks don’t always have to be major life-or-death situations. Taking a risk can be something as big as going skydiving or as small as trying out a restaurant you’ve never eaten at before. Keeping your routine too predictable can lead to missing out of potentially valuable experiences.
Instead: Make a point of doing one thing that gets you out of your comfort zone each week. New experiences can teach us a lot about ourselves and help us grow in ways we couldn’t conceive if we constantly stay where the outcomes are safe and sure.
Have you had to retool the way you spend your time off? Let us know in the comments!
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is an MFA candidate at Columbia University, and her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.