The word recreation means "activity done for enjoyment when not working" but I prefer to think of recreation in another way by deconstructing the word itself: re-creation can be seen as activities that we use to re-create ourselves. Taken this way, recreation is when we stop the action, taking ourselves apart, throw out the things we no longer need or that are no longer serving us, and put ourselves back together again using only the parts we want to keep.
Without recreation, there's no opportunity for sub-performing thoughts, frameworks, strategies, or relationships to get off the bus, so they just hang-on and continue bringing us down. Recreation is like spring cleaning for our mind, body and soul. Without it, our minds-eye view becomes obstructed by too many repetitive and useless thoughts. Without recreation our bodily energy declines from a life-giving and inspiring joie-de-vivre when we are fully rested, to the monotonous dull ache of dragging ourselves through our days from morning to night. Without recreation our mood suffer too: we become more and more negative, the amount of compassion and generosity we feel declines, and our self-image becomes uglier and uglier.
As a result recreation is a vital part of happiness, productivity and achievement. When we're running hard on the hamster wheel of life, it's easy to forget that taking a long break right now might be the exact best thing to do in order to achieve our goals, but if you don't feel well rested, happy and creative right now, it's probably time for a break.
This idea plays out in my life in a number of ways, but the core of my approach is that I schedule daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, rest and recreation times (I call them "Rests"). Rests are key to feeling happy and getting my work done, and whenever I return from them, it always affirms their value.
On a hourly basis, after reading this Harvard Business Review article on the Corporate Athlete, I have a new habit of taking a break for a few minutes every 90-120 minutes. These could be a few deep breaths, a walk around the block, or striking up a conversation with someone on the team. I find at the end of the day I feel more rested and have gotten more done.
On a daily basis, I've concluded that I only have about 8 good hours of work in me per day, so I try to leave the office when my 8 hours are done.
On a weekly basis I try to take one day off on the weekend and do nothing. Today was an example, Kati and I snuggled on our couch and stared out the window for most of the afternoon. It was delicious.
On a monthly or quarterly basis, I schedule "Sleep Weekends" once in a while: I rent a cabin in the hills and go away alone for a few days with a pile of books. I always feel refreshed and come back with new ideas.
On a yearly basis, Kati and I take two weeks off in August and head to Nevada. Also Christmas time is a great yearly break. I try not to schedule too much and leave lots of time for sleeping, thinking, and lazy days with my family.
On a multi-year basis, I'm still figuring it out. Ideally some sort of multi-month sabbatical seems in order every few years to wipe the slate clean, regroup, rest and re-evaluate everything. Most people don't do these, and the danger of skipping these 100,000 foot life reviews is working for years or decades on the wrong thing(! yikes). So I'm committed that at some point I'll make this a habit.
My last multi-month sabbatical was with Kati in 2010. A few months after we met, we rented a house on the ocean in Panama and ran away together a few months. Kindara came out of that trip, and I'm excited to see what comes out of the next one (whenever that will be).
Recreation is one of the keys to success and happiness in life. When you've been chopping for a while and the axe is dull, stop chopping and sharpen the axe.