All Work and No Play? Why We Need to Take Advantage of Opportunities for Joy and Personal Growth

For some of us, it can feel like we should spend every moment of our days being productive. A wasted moment is a missed opportunity to make more money, impress your boss, start a new project, or simply get more work done. To succeed in “adulting,” we might push free time to the back burner in favor of working longer hours instead. Without a doubt, many of us feel a lot of pressure to work hard and focus on productivity above all else.

Yet, if we neglect opportunities to prioritize our own personal growth or simply experience joy with no pressure to compete, we may begin to feel like our lives are incomplete or stagnant.

Why do we need time to simply be ourselves, engage in our hobbies, and let go of high expectations?

Here are a few of the many important benefits.

Stress Relief

Trying to ensure that we spend every minute being productive in some way is downright exhausting. If we’re always trying to measure up to a particular standard, the work is never truly done, and the next day, there is always some new task to attend to.

You can easily start to feel like you’re on a hamster wheel, tirelessly racing toward some unspecified, unobtainable location. And while social media and #hustle culture may tell us otherwise, this type of schedule is eventually overwhelming for anyone. Simply put: designating a few hours of each week as genuine free time with no productive purpose is an incredible stress reliever because it gives us time to pause and step off the hamster wheel.  Further, it can allow us the flexibility to pursue activities we find meaning-filled and purposeful, which helps us better handle other stresses in our lives.


If we don’t allow ourselves to step outside the boundaries of what’s expected of us at work, we may not discover new things about ourselves. Giving ourselves time to prioritize activities that may help us discover new meaningful endeavors – be they artistic, spiritual, interpersonal, or otherwise – outside of the workplace is where our journey to self-discovery really begins. You may find out things about yourself that you never would have known if you solely focused on checking professional boxes.

Freedom of Expression

In the professional world, we’re expected to follow certain norms. From the way we dress, speak, or even organize our workspaces, we have to stay within certain limits. But when we have time outside of work to do our own thing, we can enjoy true freedom of expression. Autonomy, or the perception that we’re able to act in accordance with what’s truly important to us, is an inherent psychological need. If you work in a highly structured or regulated work environment, cultivating autonomy in other areas of your life can help you feel lighter and less burdened by rules and regulations in your workplace.

Problem-Solving Skills

Yes, most of us develop certain problem-solving skills at work. However, when we’re working on a purely creative project, we’re presented with new problems that you need to work around. For instance, planning a fun vacation with friends might require a different set of skills than your job, like those needed identify what sites are most exciting and important to you and to structure your itinerary and make the right bookings accordingly. Your free time can actually be a great opportunity to hone your problem-solving and critical thinking skills outside of a professional environment.

Building Relationships

How much quality time do you really get to spend with your friends? How about your children, or your nieces and nephews?

Adults who make more time for their loved ones often feel happier and less anxious. Plus, spending some intentional time with the little ones in your life can help you remember what you loved to do during your own childhood. It might even prompt you to pick up some long-forgotten hobbies again. Play is one expression of love. Enjoying time with your loved ones simply to have fun together is a way to share your appreciation for each other.

Do you struggle to let go of the urge to be productive? Wondering how you can find the time to relax, unwind, and explore your hobbies? In our fast-paced society, it can feel like a daunting task. Therapy can help.

Reach out to us to see how we can help you re-connect with what is important to you and make room for joy, connection, and personal growth.

Author: Kati Lear, Ph.D.

Kati Lear, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, associate investigator, and continuing education coordinator at Portland Psychotherapy. Kati specializes in working with adults struggling with high levels of self-criticism and shame. Some of her specialty areas include social anxiety disorder, trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression.

What Makes Us Unique

Portland Psychotherapy is a clinic, research & training center with a unique business model that funds scientific research. This results in a team of therapists who are exceptionally well-trained and knowledgeable about their areas of specialty.