Me — Accepting a Less-Productive You

I never feel like I really have any free time, but honestly, that’s not true. The amount of free time I have is honestly pretty manageable. Most of the responsibilities I have outside of work, such as my blog, are self-imposed. I end up cutting corners on D&D prep or writing blog posts late all the time, simply because the time slot I have to do it is far more easily spent relaxing. The struggle of having stuff to do after you feel like you’ve spent the whole day doing stuff is something I’ve talked about quite a bit, but today I wanted to spin it on it’s head a bit.

I know what the solution is. I need to get up super early (5am) and get all that extra stuff done before work, so when I come home everything is already done. Getting into that habit is easier said than done, I know, but that is a solution that’s worked for me in the past.

Lately I’ve been thinking to myself that I need a vacation. Just three or four days where I don’t have to worry about anything. But then I realized something. I would probably hate that—especially if I stayed home for that duration. The reason for that is because of those self-imposed deadlines. They are easy to get around, sure. I could write a short post on the blog saying I’m taking a week off, tell my brothers that we’re skipping a week of D&D, and tell my friends in the passion project that I have to skip that week’s meetings to focus on me time. After all’s said and done the only thing I’d have left would be going to work 9-5 every weekday.

But the only moments in life where I feel justified in relaxing—the only free time spent truly feeling free, is when I’ve spent so much time being productive that there’s nothing left to really do. Relaxation is only really relaxing if I feel I’ve earned it, which is rarely the case even when I spend the whole day doing things.

It’s stupid. Society has put so much pressure on us as individuals to feel like productivity level is the only measure of human value (at least, that’s how I feel), that any time spent working on building up your mental capacity feels like you’re draining your own self-worth. We’re taught to look up to the people who can write tens of thousands of words every day or star in every movie ever made and idolize them because of how much stuff they can do. Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors for a reason, after all, and his sheer capacity to churn out novels is up there.

People shouldn’t feel worthless when they’re not doing something. I can manage to convince myself that meditation is being productive for a number of reasons, but it’s part of the reason why I don’t really watch movies or TV shows. It doesn’t feel worth it.

The common inspiration of “you can do anything you put your mind to” and all the similar expressions only serve to fuel this broken concept. You don’t have to spend 14 hours every day working towards your goals. This isn’t an excuse to be lazy, but it’s a reminder that sitting down and relaxing with a cup of coffee doesn’t make you the useless mistake your subconscious tries to tell you you are.

P.S. Look at the guy in that picture. Don’t mess with him. He’s got too many arms and isn’t afraid to use ’em.

 

Me — Relaxation Allowance

I’ve recently started working on a new data-oriented Google Sheet. I mean, that sentence would probably be true if I had said it any given week in 2018. I’m really excited about this one though because it’s geared towards holding me more accountable towards productivity, and for the two days I’ve used it it’s been great.

Here’s the jist of it—I like not doing things, just like everyone else. Relaxing and playing video games is great, but if I do them when I know I have other things that need doing, it stresses me out. This Sheet is to help me quantify that line. Assuming I don’t have any deadlines (personal or otherwise) that need to be met that day, how much “stuff” do I need to do in order to feel justified in spending the rest of my day doing nothing?

Let’s take an arbitrary (but nice) number, say 10, and call that the number of points I need to achieve in order to allow myself to relax. What earns me points? Well, simple: anything at all that makes me feel better about myself as a Responsible Adult™. Getting dressed is 1 point. Vacuuming is 2 points. Folding laundry is 2 points. Writing Friday’s flash fiction piece is 4 points. So if I do all four of those things, I’m just about allowed to not do anything the rest of the day. (I realize that’s 9 points, not 10.)

The important distinction here is that these numbers are not solid, and this is not a rule. I am not restricting myself from doing whatever I want. Rather, I’m using it as a guideline to test the point at which I internally feel like I’ve done “enough” for the day. In terms of game design, these numbers aren’t supposed to be balanced, they’re supposed to accurately represent the amount of satisfaction I gain from completing certain tasks. If I look at the chart and see that I’m at 8 points, I can look at what I haven’t done and just do it.

This does a few awesome things. The first is that the chart is a good way to visualize all the things that I may or may not need to do. I don’t need to vacuum every day, but if I’m almost at that threshold of 10 points and I haven’t done it in a week, I might as well. The second is that because I’m literally racking up points, it encourages me to be productive I might otherwise not even consider. Reading, for example, is 3 points per hour. I basically never read, but if I genuinely don’t have anything else to do, it’s a good way to actually force myself to be productive.

The idea is that I will, eventually, get to 10+ points every day. Eating a meal is 2 points, so if I’m being a responsible adult that’s the majority right there. But this will actually encourage me to eat three meals a day, and doing nothing besides getting dressed and eating all day won’t be enough to earn me relaxation. Not to mention I’d have to be doing something in the time between eating those meals. Might as well use it to be productive!

So, this is a new thing. I expect the numbers to change significantly on a quarterly basis, but given a very short two days, it’s been awesome. Would recommend.

 

Life — Holiday Free Time (280)

Now that the holidays are just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about what you might want to do with the extra free time. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in college, high school, flying to distant family for the week, or only get the day of the big holidays off of work: there’s still time that can be used.

I think one of the most important things to do with free time is to always maintain some level of productivity. Now, John Lennon is often credited with the quote “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time”, and while I agree, there is a limit. If you regret having spent the day watching Netflix, did you really enjoy wasting that time? Was it spent in anxiety because you are procrastinating doing something you know you should be? I’d say time spent in relaxation is only justifiable if you can honestly relax with it.

That being said, I know I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I went through the next few weeks only playing video games. I might accomplish some cool things in those games, but I’d probably come out of it in regret. That means I need to think about what I can do to be more productive. In my instance, I’ve already made plans: audiobooks, finishing Aluvalia’s novelette, updating The Archive (which I’m starting to think more and more of as a Nacre Then Wiki), and doing more planning for my D&D campaigns. Whatever happens, though, if I can jump into the new year with an explanation for what I accomplished over the holidays, I will have succeeded.

But maybe you don’t have that much free time. If you have a job, for instance, your hours are probably going up, not down (at least that’s been my experience for retail). But there’s still things you can accomplish. The key thing here is thinking about what will help you start of 2017 thinking positively about yourself and your life. It doesn’t have to be productive, necessarily.

Maybe you want to get in shape. You don’t have to wait for the new year to start working out, and you probably shouldn’t wait if working out makes you happy! Even if it’s just a few push-ups in the morning because you don’t have any free time, every little bit helps. Or maybe you want to finally see some friends you haven’t talked to in a while. Make plans! Even if they’re not free till January, you still go into the new year feeling good about yourself because now you have something to anticipate!

Everyone should find a way to end the year in a positive light. This was, in a lot of ways, a terrible year for me. But it does me no good to think like that. Instead, I think it’s best to constantly look ahead (but not too far ahead!) and plan out what I can accomplish with the tools I have available now. Best of luck to you.

Life — Making a Comfort Zone

Life is stressful. It’s important that we all have a physical place to run to when things start piling up and we need to take a breather. I think a lot of us already have what one may describe as a ‘comfort zone’, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not. It could be your bed, a certain area of your local coffee shop, or maybe a friend’s house or something. For me, it’s my computer. Now, a lot of people will tell you you need to leave your comfort zone in order to accomplish anything, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Besides, this post isn’t about productivity, it’s about making sure you’re comfortable. I think individualistic cultures hold too much value on maximizing productivity and superiority. So, that being said, where do you relax?

Often, the area that makes you most comfortable is dictating by circumstance rather than choice. My area is my computer simply because it’s the area where I’m most free to be both alone and myself (since I have good headphones that cancel a lot of sound and, sharing a bedroom, it’s the only place that is really “mine”). But as these areas can serve different purposes, they can be used for different things, too. Maybe you like going to a coffee shop because it’s quieter (or even louder!) there. Or maybe it’s easier to focus on being productive when you’re not at home.

You probably have a place like this, and I’d doubt you would have to think hard about it to know what it is. But it’s also a good idea to not only personalize this area, but in order to maximize the comfort and relaxation you get out of it, you need to think about the things you like in order to help yourself out. For me, I like organization, but I’m also a little lazy. But I feel a lot more comfortable at my computer after I’ve taken the time to clean my desk area and throw away the things I need to. I also don’t like stagnation, so every few months I’ll rearrange the decorations on my desk so it still feels like a new place every once in a while.

But of course, everybody’s different. The key thing here is to think about what would make your comfort zone even more comfortable than it may already be. If it’s that place in the local coffee shop that you go to a lot, you may not be able to “personalize it”, but maybe you can ask the people that work there if you can donate an extension cord so you can finally hang out and have an accessible outlet! Unconventional? Sure, but you can also make sure it won’t get stolen by possibly having the employees there tape or staple it in place. Most people will be kind to you if you show them kindness first, so remember to ask politely!

But there’s no way any place can be perfect. Just remember to make sure you’re as comfortable as possible when you’re taking time to relax, and take measures to improve that relaxation for the future. Your future you will certainly thank you for buying a mug warmer you can use as a coaster, or buying a mini fridge so you don’t have to leave the room to get another glass of eggnog. It all depends on how willing you are to make your future you more relaxed!