Why You Need to Separate Work & Leisure


Ah, remember the old days? When being in one building meant you were at work, and being in another meant you weren’t? There’s no question we love our newfound wireless freedom, but with the seamlessness of many people’s work these days, though you may be able to work anywhere, work ends up everywhere.

A report by ABC News online warns of the dangers of working long hours, and, citing a study by the peer-reviewed science journal PLoS ONE, defines that danger zone as 11 or more hours per day—putting you at far greater risk of depression. And that’s whether you work in an office or at your kitchen table.

A few years ago social scientist and professor at NYU Dalton Conley wrote about the concept of “weisure” (the hybrid of work and leisure) in his book Elsewhere, U.S.A. I used it in researching a story for Body+Soul (now Whole Living) called Making Life Work: Prevent Burnout When Home and Office Collide. In it, I took a look at the ways in which this blended lifestyle is not just changing us, but stressing us, too. If you work and leisure merge, those blurry, fast-eroding boundaries can mean that you don’t get the benefits of one or the other—and don’t get the breaks we need.

Here are a few of my favorite tips that I compiled in that piece, called “The New Rules of Work-Life Balance” (read more here):

  • Think sprint, not marathon. Rather than seeing your day as two chunks (before lunch and after, or more likely, at the office and at home), start to plan your work in one-and-a-half- to two-hour blocks. A 15-minute pause every few hours is critical. Without it, you erode your ability to catch errors and snuff out that creative spark that invites insights.
  • Step away from the laptop. You’ll get your biggest bang out of a rest period if you’re active. Moving forces you to use your motor cortex, giving your prefrontal cortex time to recover — which is why if you’re still for too long, you’ll make poor decisions and even feel emotionally flat.
  • No heavy lifting at night. If there’s one natural boundary worth shoring up, it’s between waking and sleeping. Choose a cutoff time for checking e-mail. Then stick to it.

Read more.