Take Time to Play

Take Time to Play

How many of you live for the weekend? It’s a common feeling for professionals whose main goal is simply to get through the week. At 5pm every Friday, you’ll see the predictable exodus from the office. You can even sense the relief in the train stations, the supermarkets and the pubs that the weekend is here having survived another week.

It’s not just this weekly cycle that drives us. From around early September, professionals have been counting down to the Christmas period, when things might ease off for a bit until everything starts again come January. Then it’s on to wishing away the days and weeks until your next holiday. Before you know it you are back to the August bank holiday and the run up to Christmas once more.

These milestones spur us on and we tell ourselves that if we can just get to the next one, then we’ll allow ourselves to relax. The problem is by then we’ve burnt ourselves out after running on empty for so long and having the energy to do what we enjoy becomes a problem. It’s not long before the dread of going back to work creeps in and the cycle repeats itself. You can’t wait until the next milestone to do something about this.

Think back to when you were growing up. What could you be found doing most of the time? What did you find so exciting that it never felt like an effort? For me, it was being outdoors – cycling, walking, camping – I couldn’t get enough, and, even when I wasn’t out in the hills, I’d be reading magazines about them or talking about them with my mates.

When I started work, I didn’t make time to get outside and suffered as a result. Since rediscovering the outdoors, I’ve become happier, healthier and more productive.

So, today, I’m going to encourage you to reconnect with your hobbies on the basis all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Find time to do something you enjoy; something which makes you so engrossed in the moment you can’t possibly think about that looming deadline or all the e-mails you have to respond to at work. Here are my top tips for taking time to play:

1. Adapt your usual routine

You don’t always need more time to pursue your hobby. Challenge yourself to fit something into your usual routine. For instance, you could cycle to work instead of getting the train. Or you could see how far you can walk during your lunch hour instead of staying in your office reading this blog 🙂

If you have family commitments then try to involve them in an element of your hobby. If you play golf, take the kids to the driving range / pitch and putt / crazy golf. If you like walking, stock up on sweets and chocolate to use as a bribe and take the family with you on a short but exciting walk. Anything passing a lake, wood or cave is always a good bet.

The trick here is to stop convincing yourself you need more time to do the things you enjoy and try to be more creative with the time you do have.

2. Take up something new

Perhaps you were once an aspiring footballer but that old knee injury stops you playing now. Perhaps you just aren’t as fit or as confident as you once were and can’t simply go skydiving or downhill mountain biking. Now might be the time to try something new. Professionals love learning new things and there are always beginners’ courses you can attend before committing to buying a whole load of new kit. You might just find the focus on something new is what you need.

3. Find a friend

Finding the motivation to break the work cycle is a lot easier if you have a pal do it with. Perhaps your old squash buddy still lives nearby, or there might be someone at work who’s mentioned they used to do a bit of walking. Talk about your plans and see if you can agree to head off together. It’s much harder to back out if someone else is relying on you. Word of warning if you pair up with someone from the office – make it a rule that you won’t talk about work!

4. Prioritise the activity

Once you’ve decided what you are going to do and when you are going to do it, put it in your calendar and stick to it. This is important. Nothing work-related should stop you from doing your activity. People often cancel and feel the time would be better spent catching up on e-mails or getting ahead after work while the phone isn’t ringing. Thing is, if you get through that work, more will simply follow. Most things can wait and you’ll be more productive and less likely to make a mistake if you allow yourself time to switch off for a while.

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