One of the biggest challenges I have in my life is switching off. For whatever reason, I am the kind of person who finds it hard to do nothing, to chill, to take it easy.
As I look back over my life, even as a child, I was like this. I would always wake up early on the weekends and want to go out to play. I usually had a plan for the day and some game or project that I wanted to undertake.
The upside of this character trait is that I am rarely bored. A weekend for me is a time to get a head start on the week ahead, or a chance to work on something I’ve wanted to get done. I take great joy in achievement and personal improvement.
I’ll often find myself trying to sneak in a little work first thing every day of the week, and feeling guilty if I don’t do something constructive. However, after an hour or two of working, I find it hard to relax for the rest of the day. My brain is firing, and I can’t switch off.
Moreover, it makes me an annoying person to be around. I am often very in my head and focused on the next thing on my list. Enjoying the moment is something I plan to do once everything else is completed.
Recently I was given an insight by one of my speaking mentors Ed Tate. He mentioned that he also finds it hard to switch off, and so he divides his week into two types of days: focus and free days.
A focus day is one where you work as long and as much as you like. Start early and finish late. Push yourself to tick everything off the list. Feel good getting a head start on the competition and making some progress.
A free day is the reverse. It’s a day built entirely of fun and leisure. It’s a day when you sleep in, hang out, watch bad movies or play games. There’s no pressure to do or be anything. It’s a time to enjoy the lifestyle you’ve created from your hard work.
To me, this idea makes a lot of sense.
About two weeks ago, I went on a week-long vacation with friends to a resort in the Dominican Republic. The workaholic in me was essentially forced to take seven days off.
The first few days I found myself wanting to check my emails, to keep updated on my social media, or to do something constructive. But when I consciously decided to take the week as seven ‘free days,’ it enabled me to relax. I slowed down, I was more present, and I enjoyed the world around me more than I normally do.
After a week of relaxing, something interesting happened. My new business gained two new clients, and I had a compelling idea for a new speech I’m working on. I can now see that this progress wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t let myself switch off.
If you are like me and enjoy the work you do, you can probably relate to this situation. It’s very tempting to keep pushing yourself 24/7. But sometimes, a deliberate day (or week) of freedom and relaxation can move you further ahead. Better than this, it makes you enjoy the journey.
Life is not all about work. It’s not all about play.
Somewhere in the middle is where you find fulfillment.