The Work-Play Tradeoff

playgroundWe recently saw an interesting study on how work affects high school students [pdf]. While the study is about high school students, we think us older “kids” can learn a thing or two from it as well.



How does work affect homework?

The researchers examined how each hour of paid work affected the way high school students spent the rest of their time. They found that each hour of work reduced homework time by about five minutes, on average.

Sleep less

They cut back more than twice that amount – ten minutes total – on sleep. Maybe young people really are looking at us as role models!

Screen pass

The single biggest activity that they reduced was screen time – the average student spent 24 minutes less for every hour worked. The researchers defined screen time as:

  • watching television and movies
  • using the computer for leisure (except games)
  • surfing the internet
  • participating in chat room discussions

Setting priorities

Previous studies have shown that working only has a small negative effect on an average student’s performance. The researchers in this study conclude that they may have explained part of the reason. It may be that students who work cut back mostly on non-productive activities.

Why do busy people get more done?


georgeThere’s that old saying, “If you want something done, get a busy person to do it.” I’ve found that on days when I have to get a lot done, I do. On days when there isn’t much on the agenda, I seem to step into a more leisurely pace and often don’t accomplish as much as I want. I do better when I keep a certain amount of stress on myself.



marylynnI’m with you, George. When I have a lot on the to-do list, I’m more focused and less willing to allow for diversions.



georgePeople who had juggled work and school were often my best employees. Their grades may have suffered a little, but the skills they learned about managing their time improved their performance in their full-time gig.



marylynnWhen I think back to my high school days, I had a part-time job. I was a straight “A” student and was involved in several extracurricular activities – band, theater, and the speech team. I don’t know how I did it all! I certainly always had something to do. I was practicing for a competition or a show, doing homework or working. As a result, I can’t tell you much about the hit TV shows in the late 80s.



georgeBut you know all about the music of that era! You’re a prime example of the students in this research study, Mary-Lynn. You pretty much eliminated unproductive play time. Your play time had a purpose.



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Don’t get too down on down time


marylynnBut I could have benefited from some play time just for fun. I could have used the time to relax and get in touch with myself.



georgeI completely understand what you’re saying. I think down time is so important. I often find that’s when I work out a solution to a problem that I’ve had trouble resolving. I may be looking at the screen, but I’m lost in my own thoughts. And it’s a good thing! I’m away from the pressure of the situation and my brain just flows.


In our down time, we may be more creative than we are in a more structured environment. So it’s good not to underestimate its value.

Work time is good because it helps us stay more focused.

Productive play is good because it helps us expand our capacity.

But be careful that you don’t get so busy that you don’t allow any time for purely play.

How has down time helped you?

You can share that with us by leaving a comment below, calling us at 888.455.BIGG or sending us an e-mail at

Thanks so much for checking in on us today.

Please join us next time when talk about what to do if life on your own terms creates conflict with the people around you.

Until then, here’s to your bigg success!

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Related posts

The Bigg Idea Behind Bigg Success

Taking Time Off to Get More Done

Play at Work

(Image in today's post by ba1969)

5 replies
  1. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    I got much better grades in college when I took 18 credit hours per semester than when I took 12 credit hours.
    To me it is simple, the busier you are, the more efficiently you work (as long as you are managing the stress, etc). So I keep myself busy with downtime. I go to a sporting event or concert about once a week. It is perfect because you have to plan on doing it, and you have to buy the ticket in advance, so you have to go. You have to work your schedule around it, so you work more efficiently to get your work done in time!

  2. George & Mary-Lynn
    George & Mary-Lynn says:

    Ryan, sounds like you could be a time management coach! We also like how you make it a point to schedule play into your schedule…it’s a perfect example of that work / play balance. Thanks for your comment.


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