Have you ever woken up and wondered, “What did I do last night?” No, I’m not talking about after a late night out with friends, but a run-of-the-mill Wednesday evening at home. Of course, while we believe life is meant to be enjoyed instead of one long continuation of the workday, we’re all for finding more productive things to do to help us learn, grow, and embrace the beauty of every moment.

Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough: there’s nothing wrong with getting through four episodes of Stranger Things (or Love Island, choose your own adventure) and catching up on all the TikToks you missed during the day. We’ve all had nights like these. And sometimes, they are beyond necessary!

But if you come into work wondering where your time off went and feel like your week solely revolves around checking off tasks, it might be time to switch up how you’re spending your down time. You have all the tools to be productive at work, so why not at home?

In the spirit of doing exactly that, we’ve rounded up ideas for easy, fun, and productive things to do that’ll help you come back to work the next day feeling rejuvenated and refreshed. 

Featured image by Kristen Kilpatrick.

Image by Michelle Nash

Reframe Your Mindset

You’re too busy to hit the gym, take that Spanish class, or go visit Grandma, right? Wrong. At least according to Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. Vanderkam calls us out on saying we’re “too busy” to take a class, read a book, or pursue your passion. 

In fact, she believes we have plenty of time for everything that matters to us. “Think of it like this: if you work 40 hours a week and manage to get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night, that leaves you with 72 hours when you’re not working.” That’s a ton of hours you can use however you like.

Reframe your mindset from being too busy to one of curiosity. If you’re wanting to take up a new hobby or project, remember that the hardest part is always getting started.

If this still feels impossible, consider reprioritizing what’s really important to you. According to Vanderkam, instead of saying you don’t have time and using that as an excuse to not do it, she suggests swapping in the phrase, “It’s not a priority.” Not only will you feel less guilty for saying no, but it will remind you what your priorities are. When you think in terms of priorities, you’re holding your time—and yourself—accountable. That may mean less happy hours, but you might become an expert at salsa dancing.

Find a Workout That (Finally!) Makes You Feel Good

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Out of nowhere, you develop a strong, insatiable desire to “get fit” and you immediately hop on social media for guidance. While the platforms have no shortage of fitspo, it’s easy to get caught up in a routine or activity that works for someone else. Instead, take a little time to reflect on what you want to get out of your workout journey (journaling can help!).

That might be building strength, having more energy, or improving your flexibility. Your goals could also be social—finding a sport with a strong community or something you can do with your partner or friends. Remember: There are plenty of ways to stay active—you get to pick what feels best for you.

Image by Michelle Nash

Write Your Heart Out

Speaking of journaling… this is one of our favorite ways to dream big and live a life guided by intention. Putting pen to paper is a powerful practice for manifesting your dreams and getting clear about your direction. While I love using my journal to set goals and map out the steps to get there, it can also be a creative space where you can simply doodle and daydream. After all, it’s one of the best ways to keep your creative juices flowing.

Not sure where to start? Find inspiration with our favorite journaling prompts—with reflections on gratitude, developing your core values, and more.

Image by Michelle Nash

Commit to Intentional Communication

Sure, casual texting is fun, and sending memes back and forth via DMs often fulfills our need for an after-work laugh. But nothing weaves meaning and connection into our days quite like a good phone call (or FaceTime, if that’s your thing!). As I would a workout class or happy hour, I like to set up and schedule calls for the week in advance. I recommend no more than two calls a week (one per evening), giving you plenty of space to unwind with yourself.

If you’re at a loss for where to start, these are the conversation starters we turn to for deep and connection-building moments.

Image by Michelle Nash

Curate a More Adventurous Life

To be clear, this doesn’t mean you have to hop on a plane multiple times a month or book a luxurious retreat in (insert warm-weather, beach or mountain locale here). Like many things we want to cultivate more of in our lives, this one involves a shift in mindset. Ask yourself: How can I bring more spontaneity into my everyday routines? Brainstorm a list of small habit changes that might put you in the path of new people and experiences. Maybe that’s a new route to work, visiting a different coffee shop, or switching up your go-to lunch spot. However you make it happen, embrace the change.

Image by Michelle Nash

Make Reading a Priority

We’ve all said we wish we had more time to read. It’s been at the top of all our resolution lists every January for the past six years. But if you count up how much time you spend each week watching Netflix or scrolling through social media, I bet you could find some time to make a dent in your reading list

Shane Parrish of Farnum Street shares a welcome bit of good news: reading more isn’t as hard as you think. “When I tell people I do have a life and I don’t speed read the question becomes: what’s your secret? How do you find more time to read than the average person? Well, first, there is no secret. As simple as it sounds, finding time to read boils down to choices about how you allocate your time.”

Image by Michelle Nash

Seize the Moment

You can read a book a week. You can take a class. You can travel more. You can learn a new skill every single day. The key is this: You just have to want to do those things.

You may have a job you absolutely love (yay!) that doesn’t make it feel like you’re just living for the weekend, but maybe you should live for the weekend and the weeknights, in another sense. Every hour you’re not at work—or doing chores—is an opportunity to pursue the things that excite you. And it’s a safe bet that by the time you roll into the office, you’ll feel pretty pleased with how you spent last night.

This post was originally published on July 16, 2019, and has since been updated.

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Comments (11)
  1. 1
    Alexis deZayas July 31, 2017 at 8:06 am

    So true!! I made a resolution to read a book this year and have actually stuck to it because I made it a priority 🙂 I need to check out that Laura Vanderkam book!

    Reply
  2. 2
    Cynthia July 31, 2017 at 10:47 am

    This is so relevant and true. Technology was supposed to make our lives easier and certainly it has…though it is an incredible time suck. It’s amazing how much found time you will have if you simply leave any and all screens out of the picture for a set time period each day!

    Reply
  3. 3
    michelaampolo July 31, 2017 at 11:47 am

    very useful and ispirational post
    🙂
    Miki xx

    https://littletasteofbeauty.blogspot.it/

    Reply
  4. 4
    daeyz July 31, 2017 at 11:15 pm

    Great inspirational post! I need to be be better with how I spend my time after work!

    xx,
    Daeyz
    http://www.daeyz.com

    Reply
  5. 5
    Catia August 1, 2017 at 1:23 am

    I’m already in a good root, but there a key few points that you make here that will help me move further. I just came back from vacation where I spent most of my time reading since I always feel I haven’t got the time during the rest of the year. Which, as you point out, it’s not true! So I’ll work on that!

    We already are taking salsa classes on the evenings though, it’s a lot of fun! And I also enjoy spending my evenings and weekends creating new content for my blog, and getting busy on new sewing projects for my wardrobe and tutorials!

    I’ve also found the more you skip these activities, the more demotivated you become. So push yourself even if it feels hard at the moment, the regarding feeling later will give you a real boost!

    xx,
    Catia
    http://www.thepetitecat.com

    Reply
  6. 6
    Kelly August 1, 2017 at 3:32 am

    Agree! Great tips! Thank you for inspiration!

    Reply
  7. 7
    Kate // High Low Baby August 2, 2017 at 9:48 pm

    Time management is tricky (to be sure) but it’s always good to reframe how we’re prioritizing our time. I know this post will stick with me!

    Reply
  8. 8
    Kaelen Van Cura July 16, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    So true! It’s all about how we prioritize. I know I waste a lot of time just scrolling Instagram and reading the news. I can definitely use my time more wisely.

    xoKaelen | https://darlingmarcelle.com

    Reply
  9. 9
    Glamcode Premium Home Salon July 25, 2022 at 7:01 am

    A very nice guide. I will definitely follow these tips. Thank you for sharing such a detailed article. I am learning a lot from you.

    Reply