Improvements in Your Free Time, Revisited

On Monday, I discussed how improvements we make in our free time can improve our morale at work. I talked about external activities, for the most part: vacation, hobbies, hanging out with family or friends. However, there are other activities you can do in your free time that can also benefit you on the job, especially, if you’re doing things to improve your state of mind.

Transferable Personal Development Skills

I’ve mentioned on previous occasions that I’m not always the calmest person in the room. This is not a particularly useful personality trait because coworkers, leaders, and clients don’t appreciate it when you bring your personal drama to the job. As I’ve put it to my friends, I have a short temper and long memory, so for me, maintaining emotional awareness and equilibrium–also called emotional intelligence–is a frequent struggle.

My default for fixing problems is reading. I’ll surf through Amazon and other parts of the internet, seeking out books or content that bear directly on whatever my issue(s) might be. This is how I ended up reading more about Stoicism, which has a couple of advantages for someone like me with an Irish temper and a tendency to worry problems to death.

First, Stoics are big fans of emotional restraint: being consciously aware of our reactions, and rationally thinking them through. This behavior contrasts with reacting in the heat of the moment based on whatever emotion has grabbed hold of your mental steering wheel.

Second, Stoics take both the long and short view when it comes to life’s problems. The “long view” is the conscious realization that a lot of the problems that are bothering us right now won’t matter a day, a week, a month, or a year from now. Therefore, it’s not really worth it to let yourself get visibly upset right now about a situation that is, in the long run, temporary and not a major problem. Stoics also take the short view, believing that we could die tomorrow, so how we spend our time and thoughts now matters. Are you fretting and worrying or are you accepting what’s happening and facing it with something approaching dignity?

In addition to my Stoicism reading, I also decided to pay a much-higher-than-usual amount on an iPhone app that helps with relaxation. As I explained to a friend, sometimes we won’t take something seriously unless we pay for it. Relaxation sounds like a great idea, but it’s easy to put off because you’re too busy. However, if you know you need to relax for your own physical and emotional health and you just paid $60 for something that will help you relax, you don’t want to waste that money. Perhaps it’s worth taking those ten minutes to meditate or listen to something that will soothe you.

Appropriately enough, the app is called Calm. Among its various features are a daily meditation recording; looping sounds of nature: thunderstorms, ocean waves, crackling fires, rain falling, what have you; short stories that are read aloud; and music pieces to help you meditate. I’m now playing the nature sounds during my writing time, alternating with my usual musical choices. Again, the goal is calm.

What Does This Have to Do With Technical Writing?

Look, we’re human. We have emotions, and some of those can upset us more than we’d care to admit, on or off the job. And yes, even those quiet folks who don’t say much in the office can struggle with emotions that have nothing to do with the job. We all need positive ways to respond to those emotions when (not if) they arise. If you’re doing things that help you maintain your emotional equilibrium in your free time, that practice can also help you on the job. Have a pleasant weekend!

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
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