The case for constructive loafing

Have you ever taken off work to spend an afternoon at a museum? Gone to the movies at 10 a.m., on a random weekday? Ditched work for a day at the ballpark?

Call it constructive loafing.

A few years ago, I coached a client who had six young children and was CFO of a major health care entity. He’s a great father and husband, and plays a critical role at his business. His days are packed. He helps get the kids dressed and to school. During the day he’s in budget, staff and operations meetings. At night it’s dinner, kids’ activities, baths and bedtime stories. He had no time to himself.

I never heard him complain. He was living his best life.

One day I asked if he ever played hooky. He lit up.

“We’re taking vacation this summer,” he said. “We’re loading everyone in the van and driving to California. It’s all planned out. I have a spreadsheet.”

“No,” I said. “I’m talking about a day for you. To loaf – going fishing, sitting in a park reading a book.”

He looked at me like I’d gone mad. I could read his expression: “Just like that? Isn’t that cheating? How will they get by without me?”

Here’s a little secret: They’ll be fine without you. Your mental health – thus, constructive loafing – is in everyone’s best interest. Block your calendar and dive into something you rarely get to do, if even for an afternoon. And don’t stay home to clean the garage. The goal is to shake yourself from your rut and reset your mind. If you feel like you’re getting away with something, you’re doing it right.

One of my favorite moments is sitting down at a baseball game, a fresh scorebook in my lap. I love that it forces me to pay strict attention – to track every pitch and every movement. It locks me into the moment. It makes me appreciate every nuance of the game. For three hours, my mind stays away from emails, schedules and meetings.

What’s your best form of constructive loafing? A morning at the botanical garden? An afternoon in the country?

The Big 12 Baseball Tournament comes to Oklahoma City. I’ll be at one of the 9 o’clock morning games. Just me, my coffee and scorebook. If you’re there, come say hello. But don’t be offended if I don’t seem to notice.

Russ Florence is a partner of Schnake Turnbo Frank. He shares a monthly column in thein The Journal Record.