Tips For Enjoying Your Downtime Productively (& Away From The Screen)

If you find yourself grabbing for your phone and sinking into the couch every instance you have a window of downtime, you may not actually be experiencing very much actual rejuvenation. We've likely all told ourselves we would paint, do yoga, play guitar, or work in the garden more if we just had the time — but chances are productive downtime is what we actually need more of to enjoy our long-lost hobbies.


Or maybe you have a tough time truly clocking out after a long day of work and continue answering emails during your designated family or hobby time, and your body just doesn't get a chance to truly decompress and let go of the day's stress. There are many ways that screens edge their way into our resting hours to take us out of the present moment. Here are some tips for enjoying your downtime productively, sans the screens.

Go slow to go fast

Productive downtime speaks to our very human need to rest after a long work day and, in turn, amps up the quality of our lives both at home and in the office. It'll likely feel a bit foreign to some to intentionally slow down. Reading a book, sketching, and knitting are all avenues to productive downtime, but it's also the pace of our thoughts during this allotted chill-out time that can make or break our rejuvenation. Mindfulness is key, and if your thoughts are calm, chances are you will be too. Have you ever been so wrapped up in a fun craft project that you lose sight of time and are just fully engaged in a flow state? That's really what we're after here.


"When we engage in hobbies we enjoy, our attention is usually 'all in' on what we are doing, which is the main aspect of practicing mindfulness. This has amazing benefits including increased focus, increased self-regulation, increased personal awareness, and decrease in stress and anxious feelings — which is beneficial for our mental health," says Vanessa De Jesus Guzman, counselor and founder of Free to Be Mindful (via Byrdie).

If you've already found your passion — the hobby that just puts you fully in the moment — then cling to it dearly and be sure to give it the time and respect it deserves. If you've yet to land on that magical note, keep exploring with an open mind.

Integrate physical movement into your downtime

This one is particularly important if your job requires you to be sitting and looking at a screen most of the day. The body and brain both need invigorating movement in order to function properly, and if your body isn't getting time outside in the fresh air to move around, then stagnancy will settle into all areas. Even ten minutes of deep stretching without distraction can work wonders. And once you've moved your body in a way that feels good to you, rest without guilt.


"Resting is now associated with being 'lazy' or 'unproductive.' Because of this, we've adopted the mentality of our worth and our value [being] contingent on our level of productivity. So we make sure we cross as many things off our to-do list as possible," therapist Camille Tenerife told The Zoe Report. Rest is crucial for our well-being, which should always be a priority above our productivity levels and there's hope for a cultural shift to make that adjustment also.

It's okay to schedule time for your hobby

Hobbies seem to be associated with spontaneous passion, but as our lives are stacked with responsibilities and time constraints, it's perfectly okay — if not totally necessary — to mark out a slot of time every Monday and Wednesday (for example) to practice the piano or try a new hiking trail. It's sort of like how married couples with kids are encouraged to schedule time for romance; it may not be the most whimsical and intuitive method, but it ensures you'll make progress with your downtime and won't be found scrolling aimlessly for an hour instead.


"If you don't schedule protected time for hobbies, you may implicitly put these activities off when you have deadlines to meet, for example, as hobbies are not viewed as 'pressing' activities. Scheduling them ensures that you respect your hobby time," therapist and depression researcher Eve Rosenfeld told Byrdie. It likely will feel a bit unnatural, but soon enough you'll be wondering how you ever found time for your hobbies without marking it off in a safe little box on the calendar.

Be gentle on yourself

If you're anything of a perfectionist or have a habit of equating your self-worth to your output, then simply doing nothing can send your nervous system into a panic. They say doing nothing is an art, and it's very possible it could take some getting used to. Allow yourself the permission to simply be and refrain from doing.


Positive self-talk, mantras, uplifting music, whatever it is that'll keep you in a peaceful state of mind is what you want to prioritize. Most of us have a lifetime of unlearning to do when it comes to the pressure of always being on the go and producing as much as possible. If your schedule was packed with extracurriculars as a child, doing nothing could be brand new territory. So, if doing nothing with a friend will keep your worrisome thoughts at bay, reach out and schedule a screen-free get-together to focus on a hobby or simply take a walk.

Choose an activity that won't allow you to multitask

If you're finding yourself back on your phone while doing an activity that was supposed to be restful and screen-free, it may be time to commit to something that literally requires both hands and full focus. Holding a novel in your hands versus listening to an audiobook, playing an instrument, doing crossword puzzles, beadwork, or anything that requires your full focus can totally usher you into the flow state we're seeking here.


"I want to get wrapped up into a story of interesting characters in places foreign to me," she says. "To be able to empathize and transport to a completely different situation — I find this extremely relaxing," Abby Morgan, co-founder, and CMO of CUUP, told The Zoe Report. The idea is to fill our cups — body, mind, and soul — not to distract ourselves into a busied state. While many classic hobbies can be done on a screen today, like reading and drawing, give the analog route a try and take note of your mood and energy levels afterward.