Thanks to my first article (When Work Takes Over Your Free Time) you’ve recognized the value of separating work into work time and fun into fun time, you’ve improved your organization, you’ve stopped multi-tasking—all in the name of feeling less stress and finding more free time for fun.
Bring in the Fun
Here’s a classic question: “What would you do with your day if you didn’t have to worry about money?” The question is meant to open up space to think creatively about how to use your time without the constraints of a job, finances, or cost of living. Very often, the things we’d find to fill our day are mostly things we find rewarding and fun—spending time with our kids, taking up a sport, traveling, or volunteering. I can’t imagine anyone saying, “Oh, I wouldn’t change a thing,” even if they loved their job.
But even if we were that fulfilled by our work, we would still need to make time for fun. There are needs in our spirit and our life that work cannot satisfy. Only the freedom, relaxation, and joy that comes from fun can fill that part of you up.
Why do you take a vacation? It’s money spent, lots of planning, and usually involves at least one hassle or snafu—but what it gives you is happiness, a time to recharge your batteries, memories you’ll carry for a lifetime, and possibly some incredible views of this great world of ours. You bring something like a vacation into your life because what it offers is of greater value than living your life the same as you always do.
But even vacations are hard to find time for, aren’t they?
Give Yourself Permission to Have Fun
News flash: You are allowed to feel at peace, relaxed, and one with yourself. You don’t have to be “on” all of the time. As a former type-A worker-bee, I can tell you, the pull of always being on the clock is a strong one. But that’s not what makes you human, and it’s not what makes you healthy.
I’ll be the first to admit, it’s easier to hang on to the routine of “all work, no play” than it is to explore what activities fill you up on other levels. I love my work—writing, seeing clients, being a part of the fitness world. But I had two intervals this past year where I worked (and worked, and worked) and took zero breaks to experience anything other than the feelings I had while working.
Where did that get me? The quality of my work degraded, because at that time, if my life were a song, there was only one note. There were no changes in tempo, no higher or lower notes, nothing that deviated from the singular sound of ‘work’. Our life needs to have opposition, tension, deviation, and range in order for it to feel good. Put another way, we appreciate the light because of the darkness.
Even if you love your work and are beyond happy with what you do and the financial or ‘feel-good’ value it returns to you, it will lose its value if it is not offset with experiences and actions that create novelty and variety.
What Really Makes You Happy?
‘Fun’ can look different to everyone, but the core theme of ‘fun’ is to have things in your life that are for taking time, even if for only a bit, to be carefree, not worry about outcomes, and to feel enjoyment in the moment.
It’s important to create a picture of what you’d like to do in your fun time, even if that time doesn’t yet seem to exist. You will use this picture to combat the daily drudge that sets in when your work/fun balance is off. It’s much easier to hold to a stopping point for work when you’ve got driving forces like excitement and joy waiting for you on the horizon.
To bring fun into your life, you must figure out what things (or what feelings) you value above the satisfaction you get from work. What things have you done in the last few months that made you feel satisfied, alive, enriched, or joyful?
Still don’t know what you’d like to really do in your free time? Here are a few questions to help you get started:
What have you always wanted to do? It’s okay if initially all you can think of is “chill out.” Before I started cultivating harmony between work and play in my life, the only thing I could picture feeling better than work was how it would feel to lay on the couch. So I did that for a while. And then that got boring. I started noticing what non-work things made me feel “chilled out” but also alive with fresh energy. Then I started doing those.
What has caught your attention time and time again? Nature. Cooking. A recreational sport. Anything you loved doing as a kid that you could pick up again? You’re never too old, ya know.
What brings you deep joy? This can be a tough one to answer if you get satisfaction from keeping to a schedule and staying on-point with a plan. Deep joy can be felt when a big plan comes together, but there are often only a few ‘big plans’ in one lifetime. Learn to find deep joy in actions you can make a regular part of your life.
If you’re not sure of these answers, then what a perfect thing to do during your first “fun time”—the very act of exploring what leisure activities bring you the most excitement, passion, and joy. Remember, there are no “shoulds” regarding fun. If books are your thing, then read for fun. If hiking in nature is your thing, then do that. If underwater basket-weaving really gets you fired up, then grab a snorkel and go. (Unless you’re at work, in which case, organize yourself, stop multi-tasking, and make time for underwater basket-weaving as soon as possible. Your work quality will be all the better for it.)
Remember, fun keeps you moving forward. It motivates you to accomplish work tasks and duties, provides a reward of emotional satisfaction, and reduces stress. But regular doses of fun are also a necessary part of staying balanced, healthy, and happy. Don’t write fun off as frivolous—make it as much a priority as work, and you’ll find all the areas of your life (work included) will benefit.
Kate Galliett is the creator of Fit for Real Life, where she brings together body, mind, and movement to help people become highly-charged and fit for real life. She also owns ProKine Performance, a strength and conditioning gym in Saint Charles, IL. She and her team build intelligent, comprehensive, fitness programs for their members, and provide strength coaching for a large portion of the local endurance community. She holds a BS in Exercise Science and has worked as a fitness professional for 11 years. Her secret ingredient is always smoked paprika.
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