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I feel I am living in enforced nonproductivity right now, and would like to find ways to create opportunities for productivity. What can one do to create purpose and interest that doesn't cost money nor feel completely arbitrary? I work from home, on the laptop, but some days there is no work available. I spend time reading, writing, watching movies, and I try to go for a walk most days. I don't want to do anything else that involves books, paper, or the laptop/internet, because it just feels the same as the stuff I already do anyway. How does one achieve and be enthused, and not just exist, with too little to do?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

I have occasionally been in a similar situation before, and there's one thing that has gotten me out of it: I needed to work with my hands.

I don't know what you do for a living, but I'm a software developer. I spend all of my work time sitting in front of a computer, and sometimes I need a break from that. What works for me is to do something more physical.

You need to find what works for you, but here are things that have helped me feel productive and get out of my "I'm sick of my laptop and my books" funk:

  • cleaning/washing/organizing in my apartment
  • tinkering with older computer equipment
  • woodworking
  • painting
  • gardening
  • exercise

Whatever it is, I think there are a few important concepts related to success:

  1. Use your body - even if your profession is a more knowledge/intellect based one, you are a whole person and your body is part of that. Engage it, use it. There's even strong evidence that exercise and physical activity improve mental ability afterward.

  2. Use different parts of your brain - artistic activities, problem solving, and cleaning all require very different thought processes. Use your brain in different ways throughout the day to keep yourself from getting stuck in a rut or feeling like everything's just the same from task to task

  3. Concentrate on what you're doing - the jury's still out on whether multitasking makes us more or less effective, but I can assure you from experience that sometimes you need to lose yourself in the current activity. Don't tell yourself you're going to clean up your office and then turn on a movie and spend half your cleaning time sitting there watching the screen.

Think of something you enjoy that requires a very different set of skills from what you do for work, and commit to that for an hour or more. The context shift will have a big impact.

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Thank you so much for your response. It is all very good advice, and I am certainly guilty of not already doing it all. The problem is, being overseas with very little "stuff" means I don't really have things to fiddle with or sort through, and I guess I miss that. I have got back into baking, and I spend more time on cooking meals, with more experimentation, than I did back home when working full time. I have even come to enjoy cooking because it is something meaningful to do! You have put things in perspective though. I guess I just need to make more effort to do anything different! – Bina Jan 7 '14 at 16:50

Coming to purpose, nothing I found was more satisfying and energizing than helping others. There are many ways of doing so from: - volunteering in an association - answering people on stackexchange :) - coaching a friend

Also I discovered recently the incredible list of free courses offered online for self development, check it up on Open Culture or Udemy, and you will be part of a community of learners, that will stimulate your mind !

Hope this will help!

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Thanks, I appreciate your response. The problem is I am in a foreign-language country so finding suitable volunteering opportunities is a little difficult. Online course are another great idea, only I want to move away from computer use... Nonetheless, these are great suggestions and your answer could certainly be of use to people viewing this question! And that is a great link :) – Bina Jan 17 '14 at 20:38

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