We must guard our spare moments, are the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson. “They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.”
But in a world of crammed schedules, where busyness is often worn as a badge of honor, it’s not uncommon to feel confused and anxious when faced with a spare moment – what do we do when we have nothing to do?
Doing nothing has become a lost art, or as author of The Pleasures of Leisure Robert Dessaix puts it, “Nowadays everyone’s got to appear to be doing something.”
When what we do in our work or daily lives is so closely linked to who we are, doing something naturally trumps the seemingly meaninglessness of leisure.
In fact, we may have become so good at work that we have forgotten what leisure really is. Is a weekend without email considered a leisurely weekend? A Netflix binge? Drinks with friends? Perhaps not – as Katrina Onstad discovered in researching her book The Weekend Effect, after decades of fighting for our right to the weekend, we are doing it wrong.
“I talked to many people who protect their weekends and use them wisely. What I found surprised me: They weren’t just chilling. They had learned that a good weekend isn’t about turning off the brain and checking out. Instead, it’s about corralling that precious free time for meaningful pursuits.”
There is a difference between simply switching off, and creating time for nourishing leisure activities. According to sociologist Robert Stebbins, most leisure falls into two categories: casual and serious. Casual leisure pursuits are short-lived, immediately gratifying, and often passive – think binging Netflix or drinking too much wine on a Friday evening.
“In a culture where many people exist all week in an amped-up, overworked state, casual weekend leisure easily becomes the default for quick decompression,” he writes.
Serious leisure activities on the other hand, are those that provide deeper fulfilment for an individual and a challenge.
So what does serious leisure look like? We asked two leisure-seekers who balance businesses, art practices and spare time with aplomb – Kirra Jamison and Stephen Ormandy – just how and why they take their leisure seriously.
Finding your serious leisure activity
What may be considered a fulfilling leisure activity to one person can be a chore to another. It’s individual to us, and we can be creative in defining leisure for ourselves.
For artist and owner of Good Vibes yoga studio Kirra Jamison, it's about “taking the time to enjoy the small things that make you feel good.”
Photo by Lara Cooper