…and it felt awesome.
After what seemed to be a particularly draining few days over the weekend, I finally had a day off today. Now normally when I have a day off, I generally try to be productive and do some of the things I don’t have the time or the energy to do after work. That’s not to say that any of that stuff actually happens, just that I mean to do it. What usually ends up happening is I “waste” the day playing video games and surfing the Web, and then feel guilty about all the stuff I yet again didn’t get around to doing.
Today, I tried something different. I deliberately set out to do “nothing;” I also have tomorrow off, so I gave myself today to sleep in, read, game, and surf with the expectation that I would be “productive” tomorrow. So far, it seems to be working. I’ve had a nice relaxing day; I even got to watch a movie! I’ve been procrastinating, true, but by “allowing” myself to do so, I short-circuited the guilt cycle I usually end up in. I found I was more carefree, and generally in a better mood. Than my usual days off.
That’s not to say this method is without its risks. For instance, if I do the same tomorrow, I will definitely feel guilty about it, since I was “supposed” to accomplish something. Likewise, I find that too many days in a row of “nothing” have an undesirable numbing effect on my mind, catalyzing a kind of Funk of boredom rather than depression (although the two may not be so dissimilar).
But I consider today to largely be a success in lowering my expectations of myself and my productivity to healthier levels. For so many years of my life, I’ve had to be very careful with how I parcel out my time, mostly due to school commitments. “Free time” was not really free; it was subtracted from the amount of time I had to do homework and move my education forward. But now that I’m out of school, that motivating framework is gone. I’m not sure if I’m completely comfortable with its absence yet (guilt is a hard beast to slay), but I’m getting there.
And in retrospect, I didn’t accomplish “nothing” today. That all depends on how you define “nothing.” After all, I watched a movie I’ve been meaning to see. I read some interesting articles online. I continued playing a nostalgic video game. Did I build anything or write the Next Great American Novel? Of course not. But to call what I did do today “nothing” strikes me as somewhat judgmental. And I’m trying to recalibrate my scale in that respect. After all, if I’m happier at the end of the day than I was the day before, shouldn’t that be worth something? The benefit doesn’t always need to be tangible. And while I don’t always grok that, I’m trying to get better about doing so. I think it’ll be better for my mental health in the long run.
My wife continually gives me permission to enjoy my rare days off. It seems silly, but it helps me a lot. I try to do the same for her, since we are both prone to the same productivity- guilt you seem to be describing.
Alternatively, try to frame all that “nothing” you’re doing as putting your soul on the charger.
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