How to spend your spare time productively?

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That is one of the most asked questions at forums or Question-Answer websites. Different people ask it every day there: from teenagers to grown-ups, from managers to executives. Let’s try to find out whether it is always good to stay productive and spend even a spare time with some use.

If you ever searched for the answer to this question, you’d probably saw a few obvious options:

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  • Read books: good idea! At least you’ll know something new.
  • Engage in sports activities: great option for better health. Whether it’s productive time spending or not, you decide.
  • Listen to good music: this option is more for relaxing. After that, you most probably will be able to achieve better results in more important tasks. So, listening to music is not really a productive way of spending free time.

But let’s not throw shade at those simple, but viable options. Instead, let’s look at their alternatives.

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One physics teacher suggested his students to ask themselves a few questions every 15 minutes to check if they were productive:

  • What am I doing now? What have I done in the past 15 minutes? What have I learned in the past 15 minutes?
  • What am I supposed to be doing right now? Whatever I’m doing now, is it pointing me towards that goal?
  • What do I want to do in the next 15 minutes? What do I need to do for the rest of the day?

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He says:

Question 1 helps you to evaluate what you are doing.

The Internet is dope for multitaskers. And every so often, we lose track of what got us there in the first place. There’s no harm in getting sidetracked by Quora or Reddit or BuzzFeed, but it’s probably counterproductive if it is going to consume your whole afternoon.

Even if you think you are learning things on these sites, Q1 helps you to consolidate your learning regularly by summarising new content. It makes your learning more conscious, and hence more likely to stick in your head. Most of your learning on any one site happens within the first few hours/days, with diminishing returns after that. Q1 helps you discover the point at which you are hitting diminishing returns on a site, and figure if you are mostly digging through the dregs. Then you can decide if you want to stay on that site (Q3).

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Question 2 helps you to evaluate what you should be doing.

If you have an hour between classes and nothing else to do, fine. (Really, an hour between classes and nothing to do?) If you were there to research an article/essay, it helps to be reminded of that goal. Especially if you are on one of those infinite-scrolling sites to which there is just no end in sight.

Chances are, you’re not getting off the internet until that goal is accomplished. You could get there in an hour or five hours. Given the premise of the OP’s question, I’m assuming you would prefer the former.

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Question 3 helps you to decide what you want to do next.

Even if you decide to continue your Facebook/top-10 feedback loop, it should at least be a conscious decision if you want to stay productive.

At worst, it at least helps you feel less guilty about spending the rest of the day on the internet if all your other todos are done.

Following this 15-minute, 3-question reflection exercise faithfully helps very much in avoiding those productivity-killing discovery feedback loops.
As could be assumed, this method may be used by anyone, not only by students but also by company employees or executives. Just coordinate it with your reality and make use of your free time.

Summary

It’s up to you whether you want to relax while your spare time or learn something new. Both options could work fine for you if you do it with pleasure.

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And of course there are a bunch of proven ways to spend your free time really productively:

  • Try video learning (learn something new from videos);
  • Stick to Coursera or some alternative educating service (again to expand your knowledge);
  • Bond with your family or friends! (really helps your further productivity)

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