Is all work and no play taking your joy away?

“How do you feel about that?”

I was reviewing my week’s accomplishments on our weekly Friday call when, June, my accountability buddy, asked the question.

A snarky, “How do you think I feel about it?” popped into my head. I didn’t want to discuss my feelings. I wanted to click through my end-of-week report and get on with the next task. Fortunately I didn’t snap back but instead took time to answer her question and have a more in-depth discussion about the project.

My irritation with that question was a red flag for me that I’d grown cranky and impatient. That’s not how I like to operate. “Enjoy life and do good” isn’t just my company tag line. It’s my life philosophy and how I intend to live.

So why the irritability? The past week I haven’t been enjoying work and that keeps me from enjoying life. I’ve been feeling overscheduled and rushed. ‘Crazy busy’ as they say. But that’s a good thing, right? I’m doing work I love and even the parts I don’t love aren’t totally unpleasant. Being busy gets me closer to my goals, so what’s the problem?

Like most people, I tend to measure my accomplishments more by what I have left undone rather than what I’ve done. This’ll leave you feeling frustrated no matter how many tasks you complete because the ‘to do’ list is constantly growing. Completing one task toward a goal usually brings on the next level of tasks.

June and I are both working on some big projects and tend to want them ‘done.’ Friday we discussed the importance of breaking projects into small steps and acknowledging each step accomplished along the way rather than looking at the projects as ‘done’ or ‘undone.’ Completing one step or three steps is forward movement. Feeling bad because the whole project isn’t checked off the list is disempowering and drains your energy. Acknowledging the steps we did take this week and planning next-steps feels empowering and gives energy.

“It’s not supposed to be fun,” someone once told me when I was in a job that I hated. “That’s why they call it work.”

I didn’t buy that then and I don’t buy it now. Like the famous leadership guru, Mary Poppins sang, “In every job that’s to be done, there’s an element of fun. Just find the fun and ‘Snap!’ the job’s a game.” I’m so much more productive when I’m having fun. Aren’t you?

I’ve found that breaking the projects into steps or sections makes it more like a game where I can ‘level up’ to the next step or series of steps. Like someone playing a videogame who makes it to the next level. Instead of being closer to winning, I’m closer to project completion. Celebrating each level or section of the project completed helps keep the focus on forward movement rather than feeling the weight of the whole project.

My calendar was packed with appointments and events in addition to all the work to be done. There was only one ‘just for fun’ thing on the calendar for the week. All work and no play makes me cranky. Fortunately I had a fun weekend planned so I knew I’d come back with fresh eyes and fresh energy on Monday.

Celebrating small achievements helps me to enjoy the process of my work and not feel overwhelmed with large projects. Taking time off for play restores my energy and focus.

What about you?

How do you stay energized for your work?

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