The days are warming and summer is quickly approaching and I just got back from vacation. Relaxing and having fun are at the forefront of my mind! It occurs to me that many self-employed business owners struggle with putting their work down, relaxing and maybe even (gasp!) having some fun! We seem to self-select for a fairly workaholic personality type, but, ironically, we probably got into this because we wanted more freedom! The only barrier to that freedom is ourselves. So lets unpack how to get our boss to give us the time off!
(…yes, you are your own boss… yeah, so I just said you need to convince yourself to give yourself the time off… yep, dizzying, I know.)
Practice Going on Vacation
You might think that the first step to taking a vacation is putting it in your schedule, but I think it actually starts well before that. You need to cultivate a practice of relaxing and fun.
One of my best friends has imparted in me that “work is play for adults.” I think this is very true and it’s why disengaging from work is so difficult. We think it’s pretty fun! It’s also only one kind of play, and we get stuck in it for so many hours a day that we forget there are other sorts of play. We somewhat forceably have to get our brains to let go of that kind of fun and try something new.
And that’s why it doesn’t always work to plan a big vacation and expect for your brain to turn off the day the vacation starts. Our brains have habits. Our brains need a habit of turning work off, relaxing, and having fun. How do you incorporate these things into your life in small ways *now* so that when the big vacation comes you can be truly present in that experience?
How to Practice
Not to sound like a broken record, but one good way to practice your brain turning off is to meditate. But I wrote about that last month, so I won’t repeat myself here.
The other way to practice is to put work down in a purposeful way each day. And to purposefully pick up activities that you find fun and relaxing. I do this by having set “work time.” 10am to 5pm on weekdays (ok, there are occasional exceptions to the rule) is work time. Outside of those times is *my* time. Often times my brain tries to tell me that if it’s *my* time and I want to use that time for work, then that’s part of what it’s for! Sometimes I let my brain win this battle, but more often than not, I tell it: “nope, we already had work time, now it’s time for something different.”
I find that doing something mindless and passively entertaining helps transition my brain from work-mode to fun-mode. For me that means an episode or two of a TV show and then my brain hits a lower gear and remembers that we also love to cook and sew! And look! We have a project we meant to be working on! <scampers off to work on that thing> Maybe TV isn’t your transition tool, but you probably could find some routine that would serve the same function.
Other times I rely on my obedience to my schedule to instill not-work time. Having committed to a soccer team has meant I leave the office much more effectively on days when I have to go play a game. You can’t always schedule fun, but you can try! Is there something you can commit to that’s also fun and will remind you to leave work for the day?
I think a distinguishing factor for not-work things is that it lacks “productivity.” One of the lies of capitalism is that humans exist solely to be productive. We don’t. Among other things, we also like to have fun.
Sometimes being productive is also fun, but there are also a lot of fun things that are categorically not productive. Playing a game with friends doesn’t *produce* anything, and it’s very important for human health and relaxation. In fact, wrapping friends into your quest for fun can help you on your journey, and make it more fun!
Some hobbies produce something (like knitting, sewing, and other crafts), but does that mean they are *productive*? If you’re trying to turn them into a potential side-hustle, then, yeah, they are. But what if we choose to define these crafts as *not* productive. What if they’re purpose is not the finished project, but the enjoyment had along the way? Wouldn’t that make it easier to have fun?
The only barrier to having fun is ourselves. As a self-employed business owner, you have the ability to give yourself time for fun. So do it! Sit down with your boss (you don’t need to make an appointment, you’re always with them, there are no excuses!) and make a plan for how to put work down and have some fun!