Defeating the Procrastination Monster – Part 5

By June 29, 2015 Productivity No Comments

Framework 4: Kill Burnout, Low Mojo, and Over-Productivity with Purposefully Pointless Play

====5-PART SERIES=====
Introduction: The Things You Care About Doing But Haven’t Gotten Around To…
Framework 1: Tackle Big Dreams, Eliminate Overwhelm, and Prevent Disappointment with Bottom-Up Goals and the MIT System
Framework 2: Eliminate Distractions with a Flow-Friendly Schedule
Framework 3: Knock Out Tasks That Are Difficult to Start by Following the 15 Minute Rule
Framework 4: Kill Burnout, Low Mojo, and Over-Productivity with Purposefully Pointless Play

Have you ever said to yourself, “I can’t go out tonight because I have lots of work to do”?

After all, things are going great and you have to keep up with the pace or risk becoming overwhelmed by the increasing mound of work left to do!

Instead of caving into your friend’s invitation to try out a cooking class or go for a hike in the mountains over the weekend, you chose to do the “right” thing by working.

Go, you!

The weeks and months pass…all of a sudden 3 years whiz by and you don’t remember the last time you had gone out for a *truly* fun time.

“But I DO have fun!”

Okay, let’s do a quick gut check to figure out if you’re actually having fun.

Two questions:

  1. Do you spend your “free time” meeting “cool, interesting people” at work-related mixers and happy hour events…so you can be productive and network with people who could help your business “while enjoying yourself” at the same time?
  2. Do you pick up a new hobby or sport and start competing in it so you can “at least make my fun time productive”?

If you said yes to either of these, here’s the verdict: Real fun is neither of these…at least not the kind of fun that will actually help you be more productive than you already are.

“How can I be more productive? I’m already maxed out!”

That’s exactly the problem, and the thing that is making you head towards burnout, if not already suffer from it.

When I say “burnout”, I mean the day we wake up and, instead of getting started with work as usual, we hole up in bed at home, turn on Netflix, and eat a bag of popcorn, 3 packets of ramen noodles, and 5 bags of chips…in one sitting.

Then we go and yell at our partner/spouse/mother/father/dog and take the frustration out on them.

After that, we sleep and sleep. When we wake up again, we still don’t want to work. And we sleep more. And eat more.

And don’t get out of the house until we’ve watched all seasons of Game of Thrones.

When we aren’t completely crashing and burning, we wonder why our inner critic never shuts up.

We feel drained, and our formerly sky-high motivation is shot. When Monday morning rolls around, we’re dreading work, even though we’re already working on the most personally important project, ever. What more is there to life?!

Maybe it’s the wrong project and it’s not our calling after all. Maybe we need to learn to delegate more. Or maybe…

We don’t actually let real fun into our lives and, as a result, unwittingly sabotaging our own productivity.

Contrary to popular belief, people with purposefully pointless play time can do just as much AND reduce their risk of cycling between the high of hyper-productivity and the low of burn out.

Case in point: An entrepreneur named Ryan Carson runs a startup with 4.75 million dollars of venture capital funding, 45 employees, and profitability…while implementing a 4-day work week for himself and all employees in the company.

With time for play, you end up doing more than you would have if your were to press on the gas every day of the week.

Putting Principles to Practice

If you are in the habit of doing nothing but work–>eat–>sleep–>repeat, nothing short of burnout will convince you to change.

That’s okay. People who do nothing but work are so emotionally attached to their work that they can’t imagine not working — it’s almost painful to not work.

If that is you, just continue whatever you’re doing until the inevitable burnout happens. It might take a while, but the longer it takes, the more it will hit close to home that a change might make sense.

The point is, not everyone reading this is ready to make a change *right now* to their work habits. If that’s the case for you, pull this email back up when you’re ready :)

1. Schedule a weekly play day. Keep everything in your routine except have one day out of the week for time off. What day is that going to be? Saturday? Sunday? Wednesday? Set it and put it in your calendar. Make sure to let your staff, if you have any, know you’ll be unreachable for that day.

Make an appointment for a spa, salon, or trip with a friend to make it more concrete if necessary. Outside of that one appointment, don’t fill the day with activities to do in advance.

2. Allow play to happen by being present. Play is like sex. You need to be completely in the present in order for you to reap its benefits. Otherwise, you will miss the point.

Being present means not checking email or phone, not bringing your laptop with you “just in case”, not having any meetings or going to any social events remotely related to work….even if you do enjoy meeting people in your industry. Also, if you have a go-to “free time” activity that has a competitive element to it (e.g. competitive sports), don’t engage in that activity for your play day.

When the day comes, try to tune in with whatever is going on in your town that day. Have you always wanted to learn to cook better? Go wine tasting? What about an adult class for painting or tumbling?

3. Cultivate your taste for play. This one might take a while.

My productivity coach had to *force* me to take a day off for play for the first few weeks. When I did take my first day off in years, I felt like a lost child in a huge city.

“What should I do with myself now?”

“What can I do for fun if there isn’t a performance metric to measure my progress?

“Pointless things aren’t fun!”

I had lost touch with play. So I committed to some random activities that weekend, with no expectations. Scuba diving trip. Surfing lessons. A motorbike ride to the beach with friends. A couple months later, I know what I want to do for fun every week.

It might take several weeks or months of weekly practice of purposefully pointless play for you to really know what you personally find to be fun. And that’s okay!

4. [Optional Bonus] Schedule daily fun. After a while, you’ll notice you can actually get as much done while taking an entire day off for pointless play. You’ll start seeing how there are opportunities for play everyday. You’ll also see how almost anything can be fun (even washing the dishes and waiting in line at the grocery store).

If you used to say “no” to fun activities, you might feel it is now okay to say “yes”, because you know you can fit pointless play into your life while getting everything done. You find that you are more motivated to do your work, and to do it well. You will be working hard and playing hard, and not in the conventional sense of “getting smashed” on nights and weekends.

At that point, you are engaging in pointless play everyday…on purpose…to become the more productive than ever.


Are there actually “resources” for play? Play is everywhere, and can be found by being present and looking around you. To be “present”, consider the following…

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle: Ever since this book hit the NYT bestseller list, I dismissed it from the title and for its mainstream popularity, resolving never to read a book so “full of new agey bullsh*t”, as I liked to call it. Upon the urgings of a rather practical and non-”woowoo” friend, I finally read it out of curiosity, and was grateful for it. If you’ve never understood what it felt to be truly “present”, or why it’s even important in the first place, this book explains it better than even meditation or yoga. You don’t have to be “spiritual” to benefit from this.

Get Starting

What is one thing you can do to fit play into your schedule this week?