Guilt-Free Play

by Haider on November 6, 2010 · 5 comments

in Recreational

In theory, recreational activities are meant to bring joy, but rarely do so in practice.

Instead, we are filled with guilt whenever we take time off, and end up stressing and worrying more than relaxing.

If play isn’t fun, then it’s not serving us in the way that it should. So why do we feel so guilty when we try to have some fun?

The Workaholic Mind

As much as we hate to admit it, having fun seems like an irresponsible thing to do. It’s what children seem to enjoy, but adults should leave behind. We’re meant to value work and productivity and making sacrifices.

Fun is too selfish.

Play is so pointless.

Time off is for the weak.

Successful people listen to audiobooks while they sleep, eat books for breakfast and work through lunch… and dinner.

When fun is regarded as a sin you should ask forgiveness for, you will undoubtedly feel guilty doing anything recreational.

There’s nothing wrong with recreational activities. In fact, they are essential for healthy living.

Taking time off improves your work, rather than diminish it. Imagine working for 48 hours non-stop, and you’ll begin to appreciate the importance of sleep, as well as the clarity and vitality you can bring to each work session when you have time off in between sessions.

Having thoughts about work follow you wherever you go will drain you of energy, even when you’re not moving your projects forward.

But the Workaholic Mind isn’t the only reason for why play is no fun. How we approach our work can have a major impact on the degree to which we can enjoy our time off.

Stepping Away

Think of the last time you felt comfortable leaving your desk and doing something not work-related.

I suspect there was an element of closure – or completion – that made you feel satisfied with the work that you did and didn’t feel the need to worry about any lingering tasks yet to be completed.

Even if there is still work to be done, the fact that you finished something made you feel more relaxed about what’s left to be done.

But when there’s no end in sight, when we don’t have any sense of completion, “work” and “play” can create a toxic mix, where we’re unable to distinguish one from the other, and we’re easily distracted at work and anxious while we play.

To feel a sense of completion on a regular basis, and be able to enjoy your recreational activities, I suggest you give the following tips a try:

1) Use A Top-Heavy Schedule: Scott Young has a brilliant idea he calls “top-heaviness“, where he gets his work done early on the day (or the week), so that he doesn’t feel stressed out about his work during the rest of his day, or as a deadline draws near.

I wrote this post because I felt the lesson applies to my own life, especially when I started shooting videos at night, and would be thinking about them throughout the day, without being mentally present while doing anything else. Even when I would go for walks, I’d slow down as thoughts about my videos would pop into my head.

Creating the videos in the morning will help me feel that my video post for the day is done, and I can now move on to other things (including fun stuff! :D ).

2) Keep A Daily To-Do List: Working from a to-do list that has 1,001 items on it means that you’ll never experience completion, especially as tasks continue to make their way into the list. Having a daily to-do list of tasks that you will complete during the day means that you can have time off once the tasks are done.

Make sure the tasks are important, and that you’re not busying yourself with shuffling papers.

3) Break Tasks Down To Tiny Chunks: The sense of completion feels beautiful. What’s more beautiful is experiencing it repeatedly. You can do that by breaking your tasks down into smaller and smaller chunks. That way you can step away from your work knowing that you’ve just completed a task rather than leave it incomplete and let it pester you when you take time off.

These are some ways you can enjoy guilt-free play.

If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments section. :)

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Fawaz November 6, 2010 at 2:31 am

I read this article for fun. Does that count? Back to work now. Coffee, coffee, coffee.


Clearly I needed this advice…

2 nemo November 7, 2010 at 8:03 pm

true, I only feel guilty when I’m not productive :( I can’t even enjoy the weekend because I keep thinking of the tasks that I should have completed.

I read about 1 and 2 in “the 4-hour-workweek”. Very Useful :)
*I’m currently using them at work (8-10:30 is when I focus and do all the “real” work).
*I usually have 3-4 tasks every day on my daily task list.

I read about 3 in “Getting Things Done”. I find this point to be the hardest because it means that I would need to sit and plan those tasks.

Thanks for putting everything together ;)
nemo´s last blog ..Georgias Aquarium Pictures My ComLuv Profile

3 Haider November 8, 2010 at 8:26 am

Fawaz, it only counts if you found it a fun read.

But I think I need to do a coffee intervention! :P

Nemo, you’re most welcome. :)

In GTD, David Allen suggests that you write tasks in specific detail. While I agree with the importance of being able to know exactly what the task is (since mental fuzziness will lead to confusion and, therefore, procrastination), I don’t think you need to go into too much detail when you know what the task entails.

My task is to “clear out inbox” and not: “Switch on computer, check Internet connection is on, go to GMail, …”

That would be too much detail, and can get very tiring very quickly.

And it’s not about too much planning. It’s about breaking a task down. Instead of “Organize office,” you break that down to “Go through Pile A,” or even taking a bundle from the pile and saying to yourself: “I’ll take a break once I’m done with these.”

At least you can get the task completed within a session, and you’ll be experiencing several completions (and successes) as you work your way to completing the overall task of organizing your office.

4 Kerry Rego November 9, 2010 at 5:42 pm

I needed to hear “top heavy” day. I think this phrase will be helpful in my search for completion. Thanks for the right words at the right time.

5 Haider November 9, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Thanks for passing by, Kerry!

I fell in love with the “top heavy” expression when I first read it. :)

Wish you many joyous completions every day! ;)

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