Recently, I have heard several people say that starting your own business is the best personal development course. Being in the middle of launching my business, I could not agree more. First weeks of working on my own were like nothing I had experienced before: full of excitement, ideas, learning opportunities and overwhelm that didn’t even feel like overwhelm. After a couple of weeks of working morning to night with little time for exercise, lunch and dinner breaks, let alone me time, I realised I was walking down a path that was taking me further away from an inspired lifestyle I committed to creating by leaving my job and setting up on my own. My first big business lesson was that working hard and working overtime does not serve me. I am sure you will agree that overworking makes us tired, less productive, less creative and sends us into stress response state (happened to me all the time in my first couple of weeks of my business launch), which is the opposite of strategic visionary state I would like to be in when I work. I was not able to learn this important lesson during my 10 years of employment in various corporate position. But better late than never, right?
Today, I schedule play dates in my work diary, no matter how much work I have. Today, I feel play time is as important a commitment in my business schedule as, say, doing my accounts.
Listening to the inspiring Arianna Huffington at an event organised by the School of Life a couple of weeks ago, I walked away with a sense of hope and optimism. I must be doing something right if a very successful women, one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, according to Time magazine, lives by the same rules.
Arianna encouraged us to create our own definition of success, which is not measured only by how much money or how much power we have, but also by how much we thrive in life. In conversation with other attendees, I came up with my own definition of success. For me a successful day has nothing to do with how much time I spend working or how many tasks I tick off my list, a successful day for me is measured by how fulfilled and inspired I felt and how much pleasure I experienced. When I look back at the past month I can see that completing a lot of tasks in one day is extremely satisfying, but collapsing tired on my bed with no other memories but those of hard work at my desk is not. It’s the balance of achievements in work and pleasure that creates fulfilment and happiness daily. Plus, I don’t know about you, but for me, my best ideas, creative visions and inspiration come during the time of fun or relaxation, not when I am crunched over my laptop at my desk.
So if you need any more reasons to take play seriously and the fact that it makes you feel great is not enough, think about how much better the quality of your work will be when you are inspired, re-energised and connected to your creativity. Then think about how being in this state can affect your daily life and positively impact relationships, lifestyle.
I hear you… You are asking how can you have more play time if you are so busy all the time! My answer is: one step at a time.
1. Choose one thing (or more) you want to enjoy at the beginning of each day
A woman I met in California recently came up with a beautiful and inspiring way to infuse more pleasure into her daily life. Every day she creates lists of activities, things and experiences she wants to enjoy that day, similar to a classic to-do list only full of fun and beautiful activities, such as slowly enjoying a strawberry or sketching or sitting outside in the grass, and there is no obligation to tick them all off. A beautiful idea, isn’t it?
Decide what it is that you want to enjoy at the beginning of your day before getting into your ‘work’ mode (instead of reaching for your phone). When you know what you want to enjoy you are much more likely to do it.
2. Have an play date with yourself once a week
If you want to go one step further, consider having a play date in your diary weekly, or, as creativity guru Julia Cameron calls them, Artist Dates. Her only rules are that you have to be by yourself and that it has to be fun. Surely, everyone has an hour per week in their diary for some fun.
3. Keep a play journal
As grown ups we are so far removed from the state of play for the sake of fun that at first it may be difficult to come up with ideas for your play dates and you may be tempted to reach for TV remote instead. Try keeping a play journal. You can make your first play date out of it: go to a stationary shop and choose a stylish notebook that will inspire you to be creative and playful, buy some coloured pens or whatever inspires you and sit in a beautiful space brainstorming ideas for your future play dates. This way if you are stuck for ideas, you can always consult your play journal. You can cut out inspiring pictures from magazines and include these in your journal too.
4. Have a “me day”
This sounds like an ultimate luxury, doesn’t it? I know women, very successful business owners, who dedicate one day every week to fun activities. This may be difficult for play beginners. I am not fully there yet myself, but it is my aspiration to structure my work in a way that allows me to have a “me day” most weeks for fun, play and pampering. This for me is an essential part of success and inspired lifestyle. Of course not everyone has the opportunity to take an entire day off just for themselves every week. Before you tell me that this is absolutely impossible, given all the commitments in your life, I will quote Arianna Huffington: “We have to let go of something every day”. What are you willing to let go of today to have more time for fun and pleasure in your life?
Recommended reading: “Thrive” by Arianna Huffington
Here are examples of my recent play dates and fun activities.
Please share your ideas on how to infuse pleasure into our lives and make it a non-negotiable part of the schedule.