Are you delaying all the fun so you can get all the work done? That’s one of the saddest characteristics of today’s busy lives. We scramble to get everything that “needs to be done” accomplished and have no time left for the activities that bring us joy.
Our approach to retirement is even more that way. We give excessive amounts of time to a job so that we can “get retirement” once we reach a certain age. I am a strong proponent of work. I think we need to do it for our entire lives. But it’s got to be in balance. All work now for all play later is just plain dumb. You need to play now. (And you need to work at something once you retire, even if it’s not for pay.)
I hear your groans. I’ve been in your shoes. It really is hard to find two seconds to catch your breath much less an entire hour to take a yoga class—or a hike in the hills–sometimes. But there’s a life skill we aren’t learning with the way we are doing this, and maybe it’s time to circle back and pick that one up. We need to learn to balance.
Notice I did not say “juggle.” Most of us are doing too much of that, keeping more and more balls in the air. No, I said balance. That’s about adding and taking away. To achieve balance, you put a little more on one side of the scale or take a little off of the other. For most of us, we need to take away some of the minutes we put on work and add some for play—or at least leisure. But how?
An interesting thing happens when you only have a certain amount of time to get something done. You work faster. Things come together more easily. You’re more focused. The end result when you “don’t have enough time” is often better than what you do on a regular basis. Why?
I suspect it’s because we don’t let ourselves get distracted as easily. We don’t buy in on other people’s problems when they walk into your cube dressed as friends. We don’t let ourselves waste one minute on non-essential stuff. We are “on task.”
What would happen if we used that strategy at work all the time as a way to make room for play? And then guarded our play time like a mama bear?
The obvious problem on the work side is the potential for being assigned more work. This is not about working three hours and then taking a two hour lunch every day. This is about not staying ridiculously late or bringing work home. This is about adding time for yourself in the part of your day that’s supposed to be yours.
What if you’re retired? In my experience, the advice is every bit as valid. We do the laundry, clean the gutters, repair the back screen, and take a load to the recycling center before we get out the sketch book or grab the camera and head to the wildlife refuge. We do the work first. At least if we ever subscribed to the notion of being “good workers.”
This “do the work first” mantra screws up the scales of balance. When “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today” applies only to the work part of our days, that’s all we end up doing. We need to spread that idea between work and play.
Find a balance scale and put away your juggling balls. Repeat after me: “Fun is an essential part of daily life. Fun is good. I will have fun today.”