Why Not . . . Welcome More High-Quality Leisure Pastimes into Your Daily Life?
Monday March 11, 2024

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Quality over quantity, the core ethos running through all aspects of living simply luxuriously. But how do we cultivate an appreciation, an awareness, a taste for ‘quality’ in all arenas? After all, there are so many.

From the surface such as clothing and décor, the quality use of our mind as we apply the knowledge acquired as to how it works and in our application foster the ability to thrive rather than just survive, so much of our ability to cultivate a life of quality over quantity stems from our experience with quality. From observing a seasoned and award-winning actor on stage perform their role in a play acclaimed by critics for its writing, to experiencing the craftsmanship in expertly made clothing or artisanal craftsmanship passed down from generation to generation to savoring the harmonization of carefully selected flavors in a meal that both delight and satisfy our palate.

Each of these experiences elevates our knowledge of what quality offers and thus elevates our taste and our appreciation. Some may argue this results in snobbery, but it only becomes an act of snobbery when one uses it claim they are of more importance than someone who doesn’t know or hasn’t had similar experiences. In other words, each of us will gravitate to certain arenas of life that pique our curiosity more innately. It doesn’t mean we cannot appreciate quality in a different music genre for example or a different décor style; we simply prefer something in a different mode in which we listen to music or decorate our homes. On that same note, certain mediums of good taste may simply just not interest us. For example, opera is an exquisite art form full of layers of detail and mastery of skills to appreciate, but not everyone who has taste will enjoy that medium of quality.

Now what does this have to do with leisure pastimes, you may be wondering.

In Cal Newport’s new book Slow Productivity (look for an entire podcast episode next week inspired by this book, episode #377), one of the three core principles of embracing slow productivity (avoiding burnout and paradoxically improving the quality of output and our overall well-being) is obsess over quality. He intentionally choosing the verb ‘obsess’ to underscore the importance of consciously choosing quality with each decision we make and that includes our leisure activities. He calls them activities, but I will explain why I change the term to pastimes.

Ultimately, his goal in encouraging high quality leisure activities is to improve our taste so that indirectly our productivity and what we know to be the best work we can offer will elevate as a result. He’s not wrong, after all, each of the experiences we have prior to where we are in our life will influence the ideas we come up with, even if the areas of experience seem superficially unrelated; however, as modern lore of the story that is Apple reminds us, Steve Jobs famously applied his acquired knowledge of fonts taught at Reed College in calligraphy class to come up with many different artistic details, including fonts available, in the development of the first iMac computer.

The point being, we cannot know when the seemingly unrelated will dovetail in our lives and provide an aha that will create a unique and beloved and/or appreciated discovery or solution. But if we have consciously chosen to deepen our knowledge of how a piece of literature, for example, is composed to contain a myriad of overlapping themes, primary plot and subplots, in-depth character development as well as engage and hold the reader’s attention from one paragraph, one chapter, to the next, then we begin to be able to recognize good taste when, in this case, we read it. Or in different scenarios, when we see it, hear it, witness it, etc.

Conversely, we then become ever more acutely aware when these elements are lacking in sub-quality offerings, and with intentional practice and effort, we too can create something of quality eventually, but not immediately. Because witnessing and creating require different skills as well, skills which also need to be honed. But most definitely, all of the skills complement one another, so why not start by being intentional about what we choose for our leisure pastimes?

To begin, elevating the quality of our lives doesn’t happen by accident.

Similar to someone who grows up in a privileged environment in any capacity, if such a lifestyle is taken for granted, knowing how to maintain the lifestyle of privilege is necessary, and in time, if one is not living consciously, deterioration in one way or another occurs (funds wither up, relationships sour, health plummets, etc.).

Newport, in his previously published book Digital Minimalism (2019), dives into great detail about high quality leisure activities sharing that “if life consists only of actions whose ‘worth depends on the existence of problems, difficulties, needs, which these activities aim to solve’, you’re vulnerable to the existential despair that blooms in response to the inevitable question, Is this all there is to life?” The shift we need to make is to value “joyful activities”, activities that are, as Aristotle teaches, “activit[ies] that [are] appreciated for [their] own sake . . . nothing is gained from [them] except the act of contemplation[/joy]”.

Newport goes on to make the argument that part of the reason we have slid into becoming so dependent upon our digital devices, which he defines as a low-quality distraction, is due to a lack of time and thus energy to consciously choose and therefore invest (with our time and/or monetarily) in high quality leisure activities that elevate our entire quality of life and well-being. “As the boundary between work and life blends, jobs become more demanding, and the community traditions degrade, more and more people are failing to cultivate the high quality leisure lives that Aristotle identifies as crucial for human happiness. this leaves a void that would be near unbearable if confronted, but that can be ignored with the help of digital noise.”

And he goes on to point out, it isn’t as if low quality distractions didn’t exist before digital options became so readily accessible, they did. For example, television or heavy drinking (two examples he sites) would be low quality distractions to living a high quality life, but the current technologies make it even easier to choose to do and more socially acceptable, even rewarding (psychologically, sociologically and monetarily speaking).

And while for many of us, technology plays an ever increasing role in our lives, I have an inkling many of us know or wish we could reduce our reliance or time spent on it, especially in our leisure time and perhaps in our professional world as well. But how?

Enter high quality leisure pastimes.

First let me explain why I am choosing the word pastimes vs. activities.

In late 2023 I wrote a detailed post about the importance of regularly ‘being’ instead of always ‘doing’ (see the link to the post below). And in this post, the value of being is explored and explained as to the role, a necessary role, it plays to ensure we are listening to what our true self is trying to communicate to us, to reveal to us, to help us find more peace within ourselves. Consequently, when we are still (i.e. being) we can hear what is necessary to understand with clarity. If we are constantly doing and never resting in simple awareness, as Deepak Chopra calls being fully present in the moment with no thought, no expectation, but merely observing, then our ‘creative intelligence‘ cannot be heard, let alone understood.

Over this past weekend, following my concluding of reading Slow Productivity, I began reading and sporadically kept reading until finished in a matter of 20 hours a biography about Imogen Taylor, a principal decorator of Colefax & Fowler, who trained and worked for John Fowler one of the most influential interior décorators in the 20th century, and discovered a woman whose life offers endless inspiration. She has now retired and splits her time in her newly renovated French home in Burgundy and her house in Kent (On The Fringe is the name of the biography -2016), but it was having read her book that so many different elements of quality were brought to my attention.

Newport suggests spending time with people who elevate the quality of our lives whether in discussion, education, curiosity, etc., and while not all of us have access to spend time with people regularly in person that raise the bar in areas of our interest and expertise, we can ‘spend time’ with them by reading their work whether through biographies, memories, documentaries, etc. And so, while I wasn’t physically active while I was reading, my life and mind were enriched upon reading Imogen Taylor’s life journey. With that said, what followed was time I gave myself to just ponder all that I had read, to contemplate, to be still.

A core component of living a life of contentment is to live consciously. And while we will habituate certain activities or tasks, prior to choosing to embrace these habits, we have consciously chosen them and understand how they contribute to the quality of life that brings us fulfillment and a sense of deep peace.

When we consciously and with thoughtful intention choose leisure activities that prioritize quality, then we cannot help put elevate our entire lives – both at home, at play and at work. So today, an invitation to reflect on how you choose the pastimes when you are entirely the decider. This doesn’t mean we cannot watch television, of course we can. It doesn’t mean we cannot check our social media, as even Newport points out, our digital world helps us to elevate the quality of our lives moreso than ever before when we use it thoughtfully and with the intention to elevate, not to avoid addressing what would actually enhance our lives.

The key and life changing shift is to invest (something discussed in last week’s podcast episode) with your time and in some instances your budget, what brings value and elevates the quality of your life.

Below are examples of areas of leisure pastimes to explore saying yes to and choosing to schedule into your routine:

  • literature
  • biographies
  • philosophy
  • books that teach a skill – physical or mental or combining both
  • award-accredited news and opinion pieces – newspapers and journals



  • any genre in which the art form has depth of creation to further appreciate each time you listen
    • classical, jazz, modern in all its various forms

Non-digital pursuits of creativity and activity

  • building or fixing something that requires knowledge of functionality thus teaching ourselves new skills
    • think of the Arts & Crafts movement where keen skill is utilized to produce some of value for beauty and function.
  • gardening
  • art (painting, ceramics, sculpture, etc.)
  • making music – playing an instrument, singing, etc.
  • taking a hike or a physical pursuit that holds you in the present moment (paddle boarding, a long stroll through a new part of town or neighborhood, snow shoeing at a snopark on a blue bird day after freshly fallen snow has just been groomed, etc. )
  • sewing, designing, working with fabrics, etc.
  • cooking or baking


  • Watch a film of interest and then read reviews and analysis of that film to further understand and contemplate themes, concepts, motivations and approaches. Be inspired to read more about the time in history, persons portrayed, etc.

Cultural Pursuits

  • museum visits
  • attend the theatre
  • watch a live performance
  • listen to a lecture

Explore a field of study or interest unrelated to the one you work or were trained

  • develop a skill that will improve your experience in something you love doing, for example language learning
  • elevate expertise in a hobby that captivates your attention

Analog Games

  • board games with others that awaken the mind and offer in-person social connection

Social activities

  • providing an opportunity to engage with something you are curious
  • some sort of structure that encourages more freedom of expression and ability to relax and be one’s self


  • Letting your curiosities guide you to try new experiences and see different things, even returning to past favorites to dive deeper and explore further.


  • To strengthen our ability to understand and be the master of our mind.

Intentional Rest

Enjoy enriching your life with high quality leisure pastimes, selecting what delights you and tickles your curiosity. The joy of partaking in all that you decide upon can be as equally a delight as deciding which ones you will include knowing the value they will bring to your life.

You may remember that in episode #373How to Nourish Your Creative Being, we talked about the importance of cultivating an enriched environment, and by including thoughtful leisure pastimes, we are providing enriching experiences that not only nourish but elevate our lives and being.

Undoubtedly, we are fortunate to have the ability to include leisure pursuits in our life, but it is by being aware that we have this block of time, this space in our days, that is an opportunity not to ignore.

Now, go savor that film, take that language class, or learn that new move or skill you’ve been curious about and let yourself get lost in the learning, savoring the journey as much as the arrival of what you will welcome into your life as your journey unfolds.


15 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Welcome More High-Quality Leisure Pastimes into Your Daily Life?

  1. “While I wasn’t physically active while I was reading, my life and mind were enriched upon reading Imogen Taylor’s life journey” … I sometimes feel “guilty” when I’m not doing anything practical and reading your words was a real aha moment! Thank you Shannon for this incredibly inspiring post , you have such a gift in showing us how to “savor the journey”.

    1. Laura,

      You are very kind to say, thank you. xo Indeed, our mind needs exercise, but our physical body need not be in motion for this to happen. I was reading a book this morning that spoke about the need for regular solitude for our mind to ground itself, explore what we have fed it, and ensure we are listening to our voice rather than being influenced unknowingly by all that fills our days. Reading feeds my mind in a chosen way as I select the book, and it is definitely a nourishment.
      Wishing you many moments of reading and being! 🙂

  2. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to mindfully engage in pastimes to enrich our lives! Thank you for this motivational post,

  3. You are so eloquent Shannon–what an inspiring essay! These topics resonate, and the points you’ve touched on are frequent visitors in my thoughts. Reading and listening to your work is one of my high quality pastimes! Looking forward to your podcast, this book sounds really interesting. Have a wondrous week, Liz

  4. I have been absolutely thrilled to have stumbled onto your site. You share so many of the ideas that I am trying to cultivate in my life. Five years ago, I was introduced to classical music through the Artisan String Quartet, headquartered in Austin, TX. They are the stars of our annual Mason Chamber Music Festival, here in Mason, TX, 2,000 great country folks strong. Having grown up with Willie, Waylon and the Boys, classical music has transported me to a higher place. Anyway, thank you so much for giving your readers so many guideposts as we strive to have a wondrous life. Thanks again, Gail.

    1. Gail,

      Thank you very much for your comment and tickled you have enjoyed what you have discovered here on TSLL. I agree, there is something multi-faceted about classical music for me as well, and my appreciation and joy grows with each listen to the same composition. The amazement of what is created by the musicians and composers leaves me in awe. 🙂

      1. Shannon, I have a question about classical music and the enjoyment of it. I mostly prefer the smooth, meandering style (if that makes any sense) since I usually put it on to relax and think, but am always put off when a piece startles me (gets lively quickly) at various points. Are there particular eras, instrumental combinations, artists, etc that I can go to, knowing and trusting that it will serve the purpose I seek?

    2. Gail, I had a snicker about your Waylon, Willie and the Boys comment. I also grew up with them and have since broadened my horizons. I have to say, though, I find a familiar, maybe sentimental, comfort in turning to them (and other genres of past interests) occasionally. It just makes me smile and reminisce!

  5. Shannon,
    An inspiring post! I think I’ll read it again tomorrow morning with my coffee and appreciate again your insight into the pursuit of quality in all aspects of life. I’m looking forward to the podcast episode on slow productivity.

    1. Lois,

      Thank you for stopping by. 😌 As soon as I began reading Newport’s Slow Productivity, I couldn’t stop until finished and my notes are lengthy! I look forward as well to bringing this episode to you. Tickled you enjoyed this post.

  6. Lalewandowskiwrites,
    I couldn’t agree more, I added this to my favorites as well as took some screen shots for further thinking. In a world where time is so valuable and seems fleeting, it seems so obvious we would chose quality activities and yet for a lot of individuals, we really don’t. I too will be sitting down to re read with tomorrow’s morning coffee.

    1. Katrina, thank you for stopping by, and you make a good point: we rationally know, but the power of encouragement and modeling is made clear. When everyone (I.e. the culture) is busy and rushing and pulling out their phones at every spare moment, we mimic even when we may know it doesn’t provide quality. I am happy to know this post spoke to you. 😌💛

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