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When it comes to fun activities, is it best to do those before work or wait until after you have accomplished some work? I'm asking in terms of which arrangement leads to higher productivity while working if it isn't clear.

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In general it's better to do harder tasks earlier in the day or right after eating because that's when we have the most energy and willpower.

The tasks you classify as fun are probably the type of tasks that increase your energy so I suggest you do them when you're feeling low on energy or after working for 1.5h or 2h on something. You can also combine this with Rory's suggestion and look for them as a prize for doing the hard task.

Balancing hard (energy draining) with fun (energy recharging tasks) has been shown through experiments to increase productivity and the hypothesis is that it's better suited to what our bodies were designed to do. At least it works for me.

I suggest "The willpower instinct" by McGonigal and "The Power of Full Engagement" by Schwartz if you want to know more.

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The actually incorporates some leisure/break time into your normal work schedule.

It suggests following a 5:1 ratio for work:leisure. In common implementations, people work for 25 minutes then take a 5 minute break. After a set of 4 sessions, you can take a longer half hour break. For many people, this works out pretty well.

The type of routine that you should follow depends entirely on :

  • What type of activities do you consider leisure?
  • Do you find your work enjoyable?

What type of activities do you consider leisure?

Some activities lend themselves to short sessions while others require long sessions. Depending on what it is you enjoy doing, your activities itself will restrict the scheduling options available.

If you blog for leisure, you cannot accomplish much in a 5 minute break. To churn out a respectable piece of writing, you would easily need 30 minutes or more.

Do you find your work enjoyable?

If yes, then you would be reaching a state of flow regularly while working. This means that you can easily handle 1 hour or longer sessions without the need for stopping. In this case, you should do your fun activities in long sessions (30 min - 60 min), every 2-3 hours.

If not, then you would need to take breaks somewhere between 20-40 minutes. In this case, you would be suited to having short sessions of leisure time, every hour.

To choose between either of these, you need some introspection. A more accurate way would be using experience sampling method for a week or two, and simply analyzing the results.

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You can use some of your fun activities as a reward for completing a work task - I use this a lot: if I know a deadline needs to be met, I will focus on the task and not allow anything else to get in the way. Once I am done, I will make time for my fun activity, and the bigger the work task, the bigger the fun activity I feel I deserve, so a major project completed before the deadline may net me a week's holiday, while a small report written may entitle me to a packet of crisps and a beer :-)

For you, you need to decide whether having your fun now will distract you, tire you out or otherwise lower your work productivity. If it will, don't do it before work.

I have one activity I do before work, as it raises my productivity: an hour in the gym and the pool before work really benefits my working day, raising my physical energy and my mental energy.

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