Here’s how extraordinary people spend their free time

Reinvesting your free time is one of the greatest uses of your time.

If you’re working a full-time job, with a commute and family and bills, you don’t have a lot of free time. If you’re like most people, the precious little free time you do have is spent on entertainment and distraction, not learning and growing.

This is low-level thinking, and it will lead you to a, frankly, low-level life.

I’ve been there. Back at my old telemarketing job, I was not doing that great. I was pretty overweight from all the pizza and craft beer and (admittedly delicious) burritos I was eating. I wasn’t sleeping well, because I was having too much coffee, because I wasn’t sleeping well — the vicious cycle of desk-job-death. I spent most of my free time in front of the TV or on the couch.

As a result, I had a pretty low-level life. I was tired all the time. My relationships were suffering. I was irritable and frustrated and bored. I was stuck but didn’t know what else to do. So I’d play more video games and drink more beer.

It took me a long time to get out of that cycle. Finally, my wife and I decided we were sick and tired of being fat and bored, and we moved to South Korea to teach English. I spent my time very differently: I started waking up at 5:00 am to write. I played basketball 3x/week with friendly Koreans who didn’t speak a word of English. Instead of TV and video games, I went on walks.

After 12 months of reinvesting my time, I had a fully-functioning writing business. I came back to America with no debt, no dead-end job, and no more beer belly!

Extraordinary people spend their free time very differently than the rest of the world. Here’s what they do.

100% When You’re On, 100% When You’re Off

A terribly large number of people are basically “always working.” Meaning, they never turn off their work-brains. As a result, their energy depletes rapidly, meaning the work they put in usually isn’t that great. It’s usually just “good enough.”

And as film producer Brian Grazer once put bluntly:

“Good-enough equals shitty.”

Extraordinary people are not working all the time. In fact, extraordinary people probably work far less than most people.

Extraordinary people put 100% of their effort into whatever they’re doing — 100% work when they’re working, and 100% rest when they’re resting. They don’t follow the usual routine: slacking off at work, anxiously worrying about work when they’re resting. (That was me in a nutshell).

When you focus 100% on whatever you’re doing, a lot of things will happen:

  • You’ll have better relationships because you’re more present with those you’re with.
  • You have a higher quality of work because your focus is higher.
  • You’ll enter flow states more because you’ll start developing high-level routines.
  • You’ll waste less time on things like social media and your phone.
  • You’ll have more prestige in your network because you’ll be known as an excellent worker.
  • You’ll have a deeper spiritual life as you pay attention to the world around and inside you.
  • You’ll have longer weekends because you won’t be thinking about work.
  • You’ll have more fun. What’s better than 100% guilt-free slacking off?

Extraordinary people focus entirely on the thing they’re doing, and that’s it. They create firm boundaries — when they’re working, they’re totally committed and focused. When they’re off the clock, they refuse to engage in any work-related distractions.

Wherever you are, be there.

“Wherever you are, make sure you’re there.” -Dan Sullivan

Reinvest Your Free Time Into Learning and Growing

If you want to become more extraordinary and achieve bigger goals, you need to create a shift in your mindset. This will create emotional momentum, which will manifest itself into extremely focused behavior over time.

Most people don’t reinvest the time they’re given outside of work — they’d rather be entertained and distracted. Choosing to learn and grow on your personal time isn’t common.

But this is exactly what the world’s most successful people and top performers do. They know their ability to focus and avoid distractions is the difference between making thousands of dollars a year and millions of dollars a year.

Ironically, most people’s personal time can actually be about as stressful as work. In the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi:

“On the job, people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied. In their free time, people feel that there is generally not much to do and their skills are not being used, and therefore they tend to feel more sad, weak, dull, and dissatisfied. Yet they would like to work less and spend more time in leisure.”

Csikszentmihalyi is saying work is a positive environment because there are specific goals and priorities that naturally keep you focused.

But “free time,” for all its freedom and lack of schedule, can actually become agitating for many people. Just because you don’t have anything to do doesn’t mean you should just sit around doing nothing.

Most people don’t realize having positive, restful free time is a skill they need to develop.

You don’t have much free time outside your obligations. It’s very tempting to use it to binge on TV, sleep, or numb out on alcohol/drugs.

If you want to be someone who is extremely focused with no tolerance for distractions, this mindset starts with how you choose to spend your free time.

Focus on learning and creating, not entertainment and distraction.

You should make sure the outside of you is a good reflection of the inside of you.” -Jim Rohn

Extraordinary People Work On the Right Stuff

“All NBA players work, but not everybody works on the right stuff.” -Victor Oladipo, NBA All-Star
A lot of people spend their time focusing on the wrong things — fame, money, jealousy, and comparison, “beating the competition,” etc.

Extraordinary people consistently focus on the right things — the skills they’ll need to reach the next level of their success. If you want to reach the next level in your income, relationships, health, spirituality, discipline, focus, or productivity, you need to start doing things differently. As the old saying goes:

“What got you here won’t get you there.”

I heard a great Tony Robbins talk once on rituals — the things you do consistently that create your life. His process for changing your life was s a simple 4 steps:

1. Identify an area in your life you want to improve
2. Identify the rituals that have brought you here
3. Identify where you want to be instead
4. Identify the rituals you need to start doing to get there.

Simple, right? This process is what extraordinary people do all the time — and they spend their free time building up new habits and resting and they put in the effort.

Work on the right stuff — the rituals/behaviors/routines that will get you to where you want to go.

Every Skill You Acquire Doubles Your Odds of Success

“Every new skill you acquire doubles the odds of your success.” -Scott Adams

A Super Bowl-winning quarterback needs to know more than how to just throw a ball.

They also need to learn mental toughness, nutrition, diet, team leadership, contract negotiations, brand building, strengths and conditioning, interview/public speaking, and more.

After studying literally thousands of the world’s top performers, high-performance coach Brendon Burchard once explained:

“Someone who reaches high performance in any career must have competence in many of the areas that touch that career.”
You may have expertise over your “main” skill — but what other skills could you develop that would elevate you into a truly elite status?

Every new skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.

The truth is, most people aren’t willing to do the work necessary to succeed. This means that by “doing the work”, you separate yourself from the herd and become a top competitor.

But by continually mastering new skills, you’ll be able to handle and adapt to the nonstop evolution of the world (technology, personnel change, new and foreign obstacles).

The world’s most successful people aren’t “busy,” they’re focused. Specifically, they’re focused on mastering a diverse set of skills that will elevate them into elite status and mastery.

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.” -Robert Greene

In Conclusion

“Successful people do what unsuccessful people are unwilling to do.” -Darren Hardy
Extraordinary people are not different because they have an innate talent you don’t, or because they’re lucky, or any other reason — they just put in the work that nobody else did.

If you want to reach the next level of your personal growth, you need to start spending your free time differently. Instead of focusing on numbing out through substances or distracting entertainment, consider learning new skills. Focus on learning and creating.

What got you here won’t get you there. You need to start spending your time differently if you want different results.

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This article originally appeared on Medium.