The power of leisure

Did Ronald Reagan's short working day help his esteemed reputation in the White House and add proof to the need to take time out to stay fresh mentally?

President Ronald Reagan rarely started work in the White House until 9am, according to a recently declassified 1982 memo from a British diplomat in Washington. He would finish work around 6.30pm and then spend his evenings watching movies. And yet many Americans hark back on his time in the White House as something of a golden age.

Some see this as proof that leisure is an integral component of productivity, with Reagan’s example adding to the body of evidence that time away from the task at hand is repaid when one returns, reinvigorated.

Some might note other parts of the memo, in which Reagan was described as a “bozo” with little interest in international relations or the finer points of policy. His administration as a whole, on the other hand, was described in another 1982 note, this one by the newly-appointed ambassador Sir Oliver Wright, as looking “more convincing at close quarters than I had been led to expect”.

Could part of Reagan’s success be because he had the ability – and inclination – to step back and consider the bigger picture? His healthy work-life balance is a lesson to all of us to enjoy our leisure time today and tomorrow and return to work refreshed.

Published: May 1, 2014 04:00 AM