Let me paint you a picture. It’s Tuesday night. I’ve finished my run, showered, and just had dinner. It’s 7pm. Meghan is at her grandparents in the suburbs because we haven’t moved out yet.

The night is mine… WHAT do I do?

I find myself in situations like above often and there is a certain pressure to fill that time with something ‘productive’. While my list of activities is certainly different from yours, I imagine we think through this similarly – “is this a productive use of my time?

The starting point is to define Productive.

The idea of ‘unregretted minutes‘, to steal a phrase from Elon, is a start. As in, when I finish the activity, do I wish I had that time back? Do I regret spending my time doing that? I know this isn’t the dictionary definition. Some would argue you need to be ‘producing’ or working towards a goal in some way. People LOVE to say “imagine if you took all that time you spent playing video games and learned a second language“. I cannot name one person I know who has learned a second language in their spare time regardless of how much video games they play.

Productivity is also not tied in with how entertaining the activity is. For example, working out is usually not enjoyable, but most people are happy once they’re done. On the other hand, mindless scrolling on social media is kind of fun, but I’m usually mad at myself after I do it.

Last, it’s obvious but important to note that everything is in moderation. Yes, working out may be productive but that doesn’t mean you can or should spend every minute doing it. Balance is important!

Based on that, here are the things I typically do to fill this time, judge me as you will.

Watch Something

Active Watching

Productive – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Entertaining – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I like watching critically acclaimed movies and shows. And when it’s on, I want to WATCH IT. Obviously this overall rating varies. 150 minutes locked in on DDL in There Will Be Blood is 5 stars, whereas 90 minutes on It Follows is 1 star. But overall, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted my time if I watch something that’s culturally significant, thought provoking, or generally considered good – great, even if I don’t end up loving it.

Passive Watching

Productive – ⭐

Entertaining – ⭐ ⭐

This is decompression time reserved for things like the Bachelor, Rom Coms, the Office / Seinfeld, etc. and is often in conjunction with phone scrolling. I know when I’m doing this that it isn’t ‘productive’, but once or twice a week, after a long day or a long run, I need time to be mindless. This is usually accompanied with a glass of red wine. The trick is making sure this doesn’t become too regular.


I began playing chess in 2018 because I thought it would be a fun thing to keep my mind sharp. I’m genuinely shocked at how significant a part of my life it’s become. But not all chess is created equal!

Online Blitz:

Productive – ⭐⭐⭐

Entertaining – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I’ve played over 10,000 games of online chess. They, on average, take 5 minutes. I like trying to improve or learn new aspects of the game, as it is a never-ending world of complexity, and I enjoy the games 90% of the time.

Problems arise when you stop trying to learn. You lose a game, and instead of reviewing it to see where you went wrong, you just click Play Again. Then you lose again… Play Again. Similar to social media, you don’t even think, you just play. It can become an endless spiral of frustration. When that happens, it’s 100% a bad use of time.

Chess Club:

Productive – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Entertaining – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I recently stumbled upon a Chess Club near our apartment and have gone the last two weeks. I don’t know anyone. I’ve spent about 3 hours there total and I’m amazed at how… fulfilling it is. The chess itself is fun, and you meet strangers who you would never hang out with otherwise. I think putting yourself out there and trying things that are uncomfortable is important. It may lose it’s novelty over time, but when I walk home from the club, I don’t regret my time spent at all, even if I played poorly.


Productive – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Entertaining – ⭐⭐

I like the IDEA of reading, but it is a struggle for me to actually do it. People will say ‘you’re picking the wrong books!‘, and you know what? You’re right! I’m 350 pages into an 1800 page Hitler book and it is daunting. It’s hard to get myself to sit down for 10-30 minutes and just read. BUT WHEN I DO IT, I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I know it’s time well spent. I just need a trick to increase that entertainment rating.

Call of Duty

Productive – ⭐⭐

Entertaining – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An ex of mine once said video games were the ‘most useless thing’ she could think of doing. I just bought a PS5 so obviously I need to defend this one. COD with the boys is a genuinely social activity. Productive is not a word I would use to describe it, but in moderation, I think it’s fine. Lastly, when my generation is old and gray, we will be playing video games in our retirement homes. Old people now didn’t grow up with it, so they can’t, but if you keep that skill in tact, it will come in handy down the road. I hope to have the highest K/D in the home.


Productive – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Entertaining -⭐⭐⭐

I spent a month dedicated to learning music theory on the guitar and it never clicked for me, it felt more like a chore. Plus, the instrument makes me self-conscious. I’m typically a confident person, but I don’t like playing with others, god forbid soloing, because I don’t really know what I’m doing. This is a natural but silly feeling. It also doesn’t help that I can’t sing and hate singing in front of people unless I’m hammered.

All that said, I still enjoy playing, be it learning a new song or ripping the pentatonic over a simple loop. My ceiling here is limited unless I either A) learn how to actually play or B) start playing with other people. In the back of my head, this is something I may take up more seriously later in life.


Productive – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Entertaining – N/A

I have to brag about my meditating now that I’m two weeks in. I’ve meditated every other day for 10 minutes at a time. I genuinely enjoy it and think there’s serious benefit. Sometimes it’s hard to get myself to do it, and I put the entertainment rating as non-existent because in theory it’s kind of the absence of entertainment, but I’m always happy afterward and think the long term benefits will be real.

Posting on Splitting Tens

Productive – ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Entertaining – ⭐⭐⭐

In years past, I was posting on the blog just to have new content which was not entertaining. Since I’ve started posting less and only writing things I like, entertainment has gone up. I also feel pretty good about myself after I get my thoughts down and express what I want to say. The problem is, I just don’t have as much to say these days. It’s been almost two weeks since my last post. If this was my job, I’d be fired. Thankfully, there are still a few readers hanging on, however I’m not sure posts like this keep you coming back.

So what’s the perfect formula based on all of that? Do I commit to reading more and playing COD less because it’s more productive?? Probably not!

What I come back to is that a healthy mix of all of these is probably best. It’s too easy to fall into playing chess or COD for two hours straight and wondering where the hell the night went as I go up to bed. But realistically, I’m not trying to optimize my life for productivity, at least not yet, I want to have fun along the way.