Somewhere I think we’ve bought into a lie. And this lie is that, in order to get things done, you have to discipline yourself to avoid having fun. Because, the lie continues, partying, fun and socializing are wasting valuable time that should be spent on work.
The lie tricks you because it seems to match your expectations. Your stereotypes of achievers are early-rising, Blackberry-wielding workaholics. The people that spend all their time partying end up as street urchins, addicts or worse. Right?
I’d like to challenge this notion that having fun is counter to getting things done. I’ll also point out that the key isn’t simply to compromise. Balancing between fun and work tends to lead to only a half resolve where you feel guilty having fun and feel stressed working. The real solution is to change how you view work and play and how they integrate into your life.
Work & Fun at University
As many of you know I’m a University student. Although I have a dizzying workload between running this site, freelance writing, heading the local Toastmasters and full-time classes, I still have time to have fun. My first afternoon back to residence this fall involved knocking on doors to invite people to a party on our floor before a social.
Here’s how I manage to pull off a heavy work-load without cutting myself off from society:
The Bone-Tired Theory of Accomplishment
I have a little theory for the best way to get work done. That is, you should work intensely until you’re feeling tired right into your bones. No half-efforts or spreading work around, but working as hard as you can.
Once you’ve ascended the Mount Everest of to-do lists, you stop. Your body has told you that you’ve accomplished all you can for now. Now, what you need to do, is recover back that energy so you can go climbing again.
Refueling Doesn’t Have to Equal Relaxation
Don’t take the refueling stage for granted. It is equally important to the time you spend working. A weight-lifter understands that the time spent not lifting weights is equally important to gaining strength. The foods you eat and time you rest builds the muscles you strained during the workout.
But for most of us, our lives aren’t physically grueling. Sitting in front of a desk all day isn’t exhausting your body, even if it is exhausting your mind. Being able to rest your problem solving muscles can help you recover for the next round of work.
How you do this depends on your personality and opportunities. Some people I know just want to retreat into the quiet reading a book. Other people need to socialize, meet people and get stimulus. What’s important isn’t how you refuel, but that you refuel fully. Recover your energies completely, so you can hit that bone-tired threshold once again.
What About Drinking? Drugs?
The best way to refuel is the one that causes the least physical punishment afterwards. Ideally, this would mean without drinking, but depending on the venue I would strive for moderation. My goal is always to have the most fun (or mental refueling) possible with the least amount of drinking.
The key here is about framing. You want view it as recovering your energies. So there’s a big difference between having a good time with friends where a few drinks are shared, and getting completely drunk just to remove the stress. Your body tends to be a good indicator of what it considers “recovery” and unfair punishment.
Won’t Partying Lead to a Desire to Do Less Work?
If you’re living for the weekend, you aren’t really living. If you are engaged in what you are doing, then reaching that bone-tired state is what you strive for. Recovering and having fun are great, but they should be just a small breather in the satisfaction you get from life.
Feeling the urge to party instead of work says something about how unfulfilling your work must be. If you can’t draw intrinsic satisfaction from it, then the work needs to be retooled, not your social life. Either you need to:
- Find a new job, major or business or,
- Re-examine the role work plays in your philosophy of life so you can draw satisfaction from it.
This is really the enemy people describe when they want to avoid this “productivity junk.” The work they do has reached such a low point of desirability in their life that it should be something brushed away, instead of focused on. But if your work really engages you, then partying or whatever means you use to relax is just a way to get back energies after the pushing yourself into a bone-tired state.
Relaxation is Important
Partying is really just one example of recovery. Watching a movie, reading a book, meeting a friend or just playing games all day can all work. Most likely you want to vary the recovery methods you use so they become interesting and mentally engaging. Recently I’ve been learning the basics of music composition as something to help me relax.
Neglecting relaxation and emphasizing work is usually just a by-product of unfulfilling work or a philosophy of life that regards work poorly.
Needing Relaxation is Even More Important
I live by the bone-tired theory of accomplishment. I’m always striving to maximize the amount of work I’m doing so that I can just reach my limit before needing a break. When recovery becomes something you need, and not just a distraction, it has a more meaningful place in your life.
My suggestion to you isn’t to party more. Or to justify any over-partying you do simply because there might be a reason to do it.
What I do want to suggest is that you look critically at the role work plays in your life. Do you get satisfaction from working yourself into a bone-tiredness, where you need to take time to recover? And when you do this, do you have effective ways to turn off the gears and refuel?