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When you run your own business, it tends to be all-consuming. We tend to spend a lot of our “free” time working. Drafting blog posts. Checking emails. Filing documents. Chatting with clients and colleagues. Doing biz-related e-courses.
We justify it by saying we find those things fun. We enjoy our work, so it counts as a hobby, right?
Wrong. You need that time to really switch off from your work day and do other things you enjoy. Nobody wants to reach burn-out, and that’s where you’ll be if you stay obsessively focused on your biz. Our dedication drives us to success, but it also drives us towards a total breakdown.
Part of the joy of working for yourself means that you design your days. That means taking breaks. That means making the more boring work tasks fun. That means rewarding yourself for a job well done.
I have to be really strict with myself if I hope to be productive. That means having set working hours, a set schedule, and a real routine to my days. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy my time too. If there’s no fun, there’s no motivation – you might as well have stayed in that corporate rat-race.
That also doesn’t mean I’m only working three-hour days, or sacking off work to go body painting.
Here are 8 simple ways to add more enjoyment to your days, without slacking and getting the guilts.
Schedule it out
I’ve mentioned my need for a solid schedule.
Without one, I lose at being a business owner – I fall back into being an employee. What I mean by that is I end up going all out on my client work, and overlooking anything that benefits my business. So no content, no admin, no learning, no pitching for new projects.
To create a schedule of your own, you need to think about two key elements – what do you NEED to get done each week, and what do you WANT to get done each week.
Now head to your calendar, and block out your days with these tasks – but don’t forget to include breaks. Remember all of these things can be moved around at any time, but it’s a great way to avoid overextending yourself.
In my schedule, I’ve got a little slot right after my lunch break for creative play. That means I can go and mess about in my art journal for 15 minutes (and save some sanity in the process). Here’s mine:
If I have a plan, I’m pretty strict at following it, which is why this works for me.
(Huge hat tip to Jo Shock
for helping me design this.)
Play around with productivity hacks
I talk about the Pomodoro technique a lot.
The concept is that you really focus on work for 25 minutes, and then you take a 5-minute break. (The Tomato Timer is a free tool for measuring those chunks of time.)
I do this whenever I’m working on a particularly overwhelming (or boring) job. My sporadic accounts days are totally governed by Pomodoro.
I like to use those 5-minute breaks to do a bit of something I love. It’s easy to hop straight over to Facebook or Twitter, but that’s hardly a break, is it? Instead, I keep a book beside my desk and take those 5 minutes to read a few pages.
I also make sure that the book I pick is fiction, NOT a business book. It’s a break, not hustle time.
Keep your bits close by
This tip is related to the last one because it’s all about books.
I take a book everywhere – either by stashing an actual book in my hand bag or by stocking up the Kindle app on my phone. This means I can do a bit of reading whenever I have some time to spare. Commercial breaks, the queue in the stationery store, bus rides… anything goes.
Plan play dates
I’m surprised to be saying this, because I’m SO not a people person, but I really miss having people to talk to every day.
The one good thing about the last place I worked was the wonderful group of friends I had around me. Working alone is a pretty scary animal. It’s isolating. It’s lonely. It’s frustrating not being able to talk to people that understand.
Think about how you can plan social time into your week.
I have a Monday morning Skype session with a fellow freelancer every week, where we review what we accomplished the week before and set a new batch of goals. (We also have a little gossip, and talk about cake.)
I also have daily Slack chats with a buddy of mine that shares a few of the same clients. We keep each other on track, share playlists, and help each other out of we can.
And then (call me crazy) I try to arrange an actual in-person lunch once or twice or month. I let that slide a bit over the summer holidays, but I’m trying to start it up again as we head into winter.
My friend (and fabulous coach for freelancers) Emma Ward has a great tip. She’s set up a recurring calendar reminder on the first of each month to remind her to arrange one fun thing to do over the next four weeks.
It could be heading to a local spa for a couple of hours. It could be wandering around Waterstones and treating yourself to a couple of new books. It could be taking an afternoon to go and see an amateur performance of Fiddler on the Roof. It could be eating all the cannoli.
The “what” doesn’t really matter. The point is you reward all of that hard work you’re doing and recharge the batteries a bit.
For more inspiration of fun things to do instead of working for a day, read this.
Listen to upbeat music
I am a big fan of listening to music while I work – especially when I need an extra touch of motivation.
Spotify is a godsend on this front. I’ve built a whole series of delightfully random playlists to help me get in the mood for doing the work. I also love that the app generates everyone a bespoke playlist each Monday filled with all sorts of musical gems.
Feel free to have a look at my playlists (and have a listen) here.
Sign up for a challenge
Full disclaimer – I am a little bit of a challenge whore. I love signing up for random shit – the buzz created by the community always makes it worth it, plus new skills and stuff.
By signing up to an external challenge like this, you’re committing to doing something just for the enjoyment – you’ll see other benefits of course, but today we’re focusing on the fun.
Create your own morning ritual
At the moment everyone seems to love a morning ritual.
Most of them annoy me – do I look like I down green smoothies in a downward dog?
But the beauty of not having to roll out of bed and run straight to the bus stop to get to work is that you get to start your days out exactly as you choose.
I like to keep things simple. I wake up when the radio comes on (the cheesiest station I can find, naturally), and I take my dog out for a walk, with a podcast in my ears. When I get home I have a cup of coffee, some breakfast, and half an hour of reading or telly time, depending on my mood.
Don’t overthink it, just try doing one thing that you enjoy before you start work, even if it’s just for five minutes.
What’s your favourite way to find the fun at work?