Structured Entertainment — An experiment in fulfillment and productivity

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My consolidated entertainment wishlist

When it comes to entertainment, fulfillment and productivity do not have to be mutually exclusive. Let me start with a definition.

Structured Entertainment. The practice of performing purely-for-entertainment and potentially wasteful activities—such as watching movies and tv, tuning into sports, and playing PC games—in a deliberate, structured way during off-work hours or weekends with the intent of avoiding interruptions during working hours.

Do you often sacrifice entertainment time in order to be more productive? Perhaps you’ve read Deep Work or The 4-Hour Work Week and have forced yourself to accept that entertainment is evil?

That might have meant putting an end to playing games or leaving a tv series mid-season. Did that leave gaping holes in your heart? Is dissatisfaction the cost of productivity? Doesn’t have to be, and that’s what my experiment is about.

I’m not sure if this term already exists or whether the concept is famously labeled as something else. Perhaps I just made it up? Either way, it’s something that I’ve recently started experimenting with for increased productivity without a loss in satisfaction levels.

I first announced this experiment on Twitter a few days ago:

I consider the following for-entertainment activities to be good for productivity:

  • Reading books—technical or literary. Helps in picking up new perspectives.
  • Watching documentaries. Helps in finding motivation from others’ stories.
  • Listening to music. Helps in calming me down and bringing me in the zone.

The following activities I consider to be bad for productivity:

  • Watching movies, tv, YouTube. Pure entertainment; transport you to desireable, fanciful world, and leave you high-and-dry when you are back to reality; less often to offer new perspectives.
  • Following the news. Most news is manufactured, clickbait, or sensational. Any news that is important or will impact you will always reach you from trusted sources—tried and tested.
  • Playing video games. Same as movies and tv but with a bigger high-and-dry effect.
  • Watching sports. Extremely addictive; easy to get lost for hours and then miss completing an important task.

With this in mind, I decided to do the following:

  1. Stop doing ALL wasteful activities during weekdays.
  2. Reserve evenings purely for unwinding and family time.
  3. Catch up on my entertainment as much as possible during the weekends.

It’s critical that you execute step 3 methodically. So, rather than watching movies or tv randomly only to later realize that previously wishlisted shows are still pending, it helps to put a structure to your consuming content.

For example, maintain a consolidated wishlist (screenshot) of movies, tv series, documentaries, sports events, games, etc., and plan in advance what to consume during the upcoming weekend. This post’s featured image shows my entertainment wishlist — a Notion page to put a structure around my weekend.

A time table to reap maximum fulfillment and productivity returns
Organize your weekends or off-work hours for maximum satisfaction

Sometimes you would be traveling during weekends, meeting an old friend, or even completing pending household chores. In such instances, you might not be able to give enough time to entertainment activities. That’s okay. The important thing is to reserve at least one day or a few hours during the weekend for structured entertainment. That way, you’ll have a sense of “completion” and feel less dissatisfied when Monday arrives.

All the advice I’ve given above sounds logical to me. But that doesn’t change the fact it’s still an experiment, a work in progress. Perhaps I will be able to derive the intended benefits and be more fulfilled in life. Or maybe the experiment will be a catastrophic failure. Even worse, it may turn out to be a mid-way success.

Only time will tell.

As with any scientific experiment, I’m going to try and log my updates each week.

Weekend 1 (Oct 2-3)

  • I saw Sherlock season 4 episode “The Lying Detective.” — 1.5 hrs
  • I continued playing Halo 2. — 1.5 hrs
  • We went to a nearby mall to dine on Saturday. — 2 hrs
  • I had to visit my in-laws on Sunday, so could not pick anything else from my wishlist.

Result: Satisfied

Weekend 2 (Oct 9-10)

  • I continued playing Halo 2. — 1.5 hrs
  • I was traveling on Saturday (to visit my hometown) and lazed around on Sunday with family, so could not pick anything else from my wishlist.

Result: Neutral

Weekend 3 (Oct 16-17)

  • I continued playing Halo 2 (finished it). — 2 hrs
  • I was traveling on Sunday from Jalandhar to Delhi.
  • Apparently, piling up of entertainment items starts causing dissatisfaction.

Result: Dissatisfied

Weekend 4 (Oct 23-34)

  • I saw two brilliant movies — 1917 and Green Book. They were the highlight of my weekend. Quite impressionable. And, needless to say, exceptionally scripted and played.
  • I resumed playing Life is Strange after 4 years! Finished episode 3, a bit into episode 4 now. It still felt touchy and deep.
  • I started watching Westworld. The pilot episode was too… heavy. I’m not sure if I’m going to continue watching. Perhaps it’s not for me? Then again, I had the same feeling after watching the pilot episode of Game of Thrones 🤷‍♂️
  • It was the first time when I felt I had accomplished my weekend structured entertainment goals. I have to admit, though, at some point it did feel like work — following a schedule to get things done. Perhaps a little randomness about it would help next time.

Result: Satisfied

Weekend 5 (Oct 30-31)

  • I continued playing Life is Strange episode 4. Max and Chloe are getting closer to finding what happened to Rachael. — 1.5 hrs
  • I started playing Wolfenstein: The New Order. Looking like a fast-paced mindless kinda shooter with an interesting story. — 1 hr
  • Started watching Murder on the Orient Express. Couldn’t finish it the same day. — 30 mins
  • I was traveling all of Sunday for Diwali gift exchanges. By now I guess it’s safe to say that I get only Saturdays for proper structured entertainment.

Result: Satisfied

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