The other day I feel asleep while reading the book, Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book has been on my reading list for a while now because it kept popping up in other productivity-related articles I read. After a couple days of not being able to complete my to-do list last week, I was feeling irritated and decided it was time to crack this book open. I can be a bit obssessive-compulsive about getting work done, but it quickly backfires if I don’t take time out to chill and do things just for fun.
I often have this nagging feeling that I’m wasting my time in school. I read stories about young entrepreneurs who started and grew their own businesses while in university, or even highschool and I feel like I am falling behind with each passing day.
As an exchange student and incubating entrepreneur, I am in a weird position now. Many people claim that exchange was “the best time of their lives,” alluding to the parties, beaches, travel and lack of schoolwork. Exchange students around me are planning trips to nearby southeast Asian countries and exploring all of the attractions in the city. Part of me feels that I like rather be working towards building my career and my “purpose work”. The other part of me feels like I should just join the carefree exchange students. I am in my final semester after all and if what those people say is true, I should be making the most of the freedom I have now.
The problem with trying to carve my own path is that my workload never ends. Everything that I discover becomes one more task I could do grow my business or improve my life. I’ve learned that I can’t just work, work, work or I’ll burn out. Instead, as long as I always have my end goal in mind, I can keep chipping away at the project and have fun sometimes.
I’m still figuring it out as I go but this is how I have learned to cherish life while also building a website that will genuinely help people.
Five Ways To Balance Play And Purpose
1. Trust that the process is a necessary part of your journey.
I’m learning to take it all in stride. I can’t rush growth. I can only read books, learn code or write blog posts so fast. I believe that that bigger opportunities will arise when I am ready. If I feel overwhelmed now, then it means I’m not ready. Feeling overwhelmed is a sign that I need to learn to manage stress better. This is all part of the process of creating something bigger than me and my job is to learn how to manage it, not rush it.
2. Schedule your breaks in to give you even more purpose.
I recently booked a trip to Thailand for next weekend, as birthday present to myself. It made me more motivated to work on my personal project this weekend so that I have permission to chill out on my trip. Now I do not need to have that inner battle to decide whether I should be playing or working.
3. Use deadlines with compassion.
I’m learning that it’s okay if I miss my personal deadlines. If enforcing self-imposed deadline makes me incredibly angry and upset, then its self-defeating. I’m better off being a day or two late and being in a good mood for those two days. My deadlines are now more like guidelines. I know that they keep me on track in the long term, but they’re flexible enough that I can make room for life in the short term too.
4. When in doubt, do what makes you happy first.
I don’t believe in work-life balance. I just believe in doing what brings joy into my life. When I’m happy, I can be “in the zone” and I do my work with ease and efficiency. I enjoy the process. I firmly that if I don’t have fun doing something, then it’s not worth doing.
Its about keeping my inner compass aligned with my work. I wont be doing anyone any good if I’m unhappy, cranky, even if I’m designing a campaign a social impact campaign for a nonprofit. I try to make decision based on what makes me happy. Sometimes thats sitting down if only for 20 minutes to hash something out. Sometimes its leaving work altogether and doing some yoga. I know that if I follow my heart, eventually it will work out.
5. Find ways to have fun that also contribute to your work!
I recently joined HUB Singapore (more on that coming soon!) and through that, I’ve found people who are working in the social enterprise space and who also like to do things I enjoy like watching documentaries, yoga, massage, etc. While I’m not exactly playing and working at the same time, I can indulge in my hobbies guilt-free this way because I know I am at least connecting with people who might become colleagues in the future.
I would to hear your thoughts and experiences on balancing play and purpose in the comments below!