Simple Living Recreation Tactics

A woman sitting on a park bench reading a book

Part of being human is balancing work, leisure, and recreation. For many of us, balancing all of it can be a real challenge.

I, for example, have many different passions and hobbies. At times, I work at those like they are my job. This is good because it means this blog happens (among other things), but it also means I have a tendency to burn myself out working on personal projects during my downtime.

I’ve learned that I’m somewhat atypical in this way — many folks don’t use their free time as “productively” as I use mine. However, I’ve also noticed that most people do struggle to balance productivity, rest, leisure, recreation, and fun. I have a mental schema that I use to help me balance labor, fun, and rest, and I would like to share it here. This mental schema also happens to be some of the best advice I have for anyone who’s interested in simple living. In short, most things I do during my free time can be categorized in one of three ways:

1) Work/Labor/Productivity/To-Dos

Personal examples include: Writing blog posts. Editing blog posts. Writing fiction. Designing websites.

These activities are important to accomplish and push me into further growth, but they also exhaust me. I make them my priority each day (and I do them as early in the day as I can), but when they tire me out, I move on to something else.

Most workdays, I’ll get up on the earlier side and work on these before work for about an hour or so. If I don’t have time in the morning, I’ll try to get to them when I come home from work.

2) Consumptive Leisure

Examples include: Watching TV. Playing video games. Social media. Websurfing.

Consumptive leisure is shiny and exciting, but I recognize that its returns for happiness, rest, and personal growth are quickly diminishing and relatively small. These activities are awesome at first, but for me they quickly become time-wasters: neither truly restful nor fun.

I usually try to limit consumptive leisure to 2–3 hours on the weekends and another 2–3 hours over the course of the workweek. Of course, occasional exemptions exist: sometimes new seasons of The Expanse will drop, I’ll spend a whole weekend binge-watching it, and it will be a weekend well-spent. But in general, my own personal rule of thumb is this: I engage in consumptive leisure when I’m tired, and I try to keep it as something I can look forward to.

3) Simple Living Recreation Tactics

Here’s my long list of simple living recreation tactics:

  • Read something fun
  • Engage with queer, trans, and/or straightedge affirming things
  • Friends! Talk with them, write to them, play with them, etc.
  • Freewrite; do writing games and exercises
  • Journal
  • Write poetry
  • Performance poetry: watch, listen to, memorize, practice, perform
  • Read/play interactive fiction
  • Get outside
  • Go hammock (I bought this hammock a couple years ago, and it’s been a superb return on investment.)
  • Meditate (I recommend Headspace, which I got hooked on after Emily Win recommended it last month.)
  • Practice solitude
  • Reflect
  • Pray
  • Pray the rosary
  • Listen to music
  • Play music
  • Learn/practice a foreign language
  • Draw or doodle
  • Do mazes and other puzzles (sometimes I even like to draw my own mazes on graph paper)
  • Knit or crochet
  • Card games and board games
  • Clean
  • Cook
  • Stretch
  • Exercise
  • Walk
  • Dance
  • Bike
  • Play sportsball (my personal favorites are basketball, soccer, bocce ball, and good old fashioned catch)
  • You can probably also count more creative video games as simple living recreation tactics
A picnic blanket spread out on a lawn. Books, a melodica, a soccer ball, a tennis ball, and a jump rope rest upon the blanket.
For me, simple living recreation tactics often look something like this.
(Photo by Cam Coulter)

While many of these activities, at first, are not as shiny as consumptive leisure, I can recognize that these activities are the things that bring me true rest and deeper joy. These simple living recreation tactics are basically how I have fun and recreate myself to be a joyful, calm, and compassionate person. These activities may or may not push me to professional growth, but they do push me towards personal growth and towards rest and happiness.

I’ve learned that simple living recreation tactics are not optional. When I don’t do them, I become less happy, less present, less productive, and I use my time in less meaningful ways.

I’ve also learned that simple living recreation tactics are best if they’re analog. That is to say, I try to avoid screens if possible. Both work and leisure tend to involve staring at screens for protracted periods of time, so getting away from computers, phones, and televisions does me a lot of good.

For me, it’s a constant battle (1) to spend less time doing “Cam Things” and other self-imposed work, (2) to spend less time websurfing, and (3) to spend more time doing simple living recreation tactics. I recognize that there are many forces pushing me towards work and consumptive leisure (some of which are good and valid reasons; some of which are not), but I also know that I always feel happier and more rested when I leave ample time for these simple living recreation tactics.

If you’re looking to better balance work, leisure, and recreation or to live more simply, my recommendation is simple: spend more time doing simple living recreation tactics.

Did I leave off any of your favorite methods of recreation from my list? Shoot us a letter to the editor at <>.

Featured image by Alex Blăjan on Unsplash.

“Simple Living Recreation Tactics” by Cam Coulter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

About Cam Coulter

Cam Coulter is a writer and accessibility nerd, among other things. After their year in JVC, Cam spent two years as a live-in assistant at L'Arche Heartland and one year in China through the Maryknoll China Teachers Program. They currently work as a digital accessibility consultant, and they think incessantly about ethical technology, speculative fiction, and intentional community. Cam also blogs on their personal website, where you can find more information about them:

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