On Opportunity Cost and the Value of Leisure

Have you ever played The Game of Life? In the board game, the first decision you need to make is whether you want to go to school or you want to start working right away. Opportunity cost stares you in the face. By choosing to go to school (for a shot at a higher annual salary), you forego a few “turns” of earning. By choosing to work, you forego the chance to earn a higher wage. But that’s just a game, right? It’s not real life.

The concept of opportunity cost hits particularly hard for me as a freelance writer, because there is always the opportunity to work. As such, there is always the opportunity for me to make more money, either directly or indirectly. I could work on client projects. I could revamp this blog. I could develop my social media strategy.

As a work-at-home parent, this places me squarely between a rock and a hard place. When I’m doing the “dad” thing, I feel like I should be working. When I’m at my computer, I feel like I should be taking care of my child.

But all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

In conversing with a good friend of mine, who’s also a creative entrepreneur, he reminded me of the value of leisure. You cannot work effectively when you’ve got nothing in the tank. It’s about more than just getting enough sleep. It’s about letting your brain recharge. It’s about exercising different parts of your mind in a different way.

I had been putting off buying Street Fighter V ever since it was released earlier this year. I kept giving excuses. I don’t have time to play video games. I should be working. I should be parenting. Playing video games or watching television is a waste of time. But is it, really?

It’s easy to get stuck in an opportunity cost loop where you want to do everything and can’t possibly find the time, energy, willpower, or attention span. We have to understand and accept the reality of opportunity cost. If you want to enjoy the value of leisure time, you have to sacrifice a little something in productivity. And if you go full bore with productivity, that’s just a recipe for burnout.

You see that photo at the top? It’s from the Rhododendron Festival last month at Burnaby’s Deer Lake Park. The family went out to enjoy some of the festivities and Adalynn got to literally fly a kite. I could have stayed home. I had work to do. I could have been productive. Adalynn could have gone with just her mom and grandma.

But that’s not what I decided. I went because these kinds of precious memories, these little moments of leisure, are invaluable. No one, on their deathbed, wishes they had spent more time in the office. Enjoy yourself. Read a book. Go outside. Quality leisure time is worth it if you can afford it.