This spring and summer, work had been feeling a lot like work.
And I’m okay with that. I’m not one of those people who thinks every day should feel like a chocolate-covered rainbow with puppies on top.
I’m cool with putting in the hard yards. In fact, that’s usually when I feel my best.
But the tasks on my list felt like such an effort. Less like finishing a good, challenging workout and more like running a marathon on a humid 100-degree day.
Ever felt like that?
I just kinda rolled with it because:
a) Sometimes you go through natural biz funks, and
b) What other choice did I have?
Then I saw something that snapped me out it.
In the most unconventional place…
An Instagram photo of Kourtney Kardashian. Her and momma Kris were on a boat, laughing, drinking wine and…working?
What? I thought. Work is hard. Work is serious. Why do these bozos look like they’re having so much fun?
They say we’re mirrors — the things we notice in the world around us are the things we’ve got going on inside. And I started noticing so. many. people. who were actually having FUN while they were working…
In fact, I noticed that when it came to the really successful people, having fun seemed like a prerequisite.
“A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” – Richard Branson
I realized I was missing a trick and had been doing “work” wrong for most of my life.
For the last couple months, I’ve been testing out some strategies to see if I can up my pleasure quotient by a couple points each workday and make it feel less like a muggy marathon.
I’m happy to report I’ve found a few tactics that are working really well. I wanted to share 6 of them with you, in case you’ve been stuck in work quicksand, too.
1. Listen to music
Is this obvious? I know some people listen to music while working all the time. But for years, I convinced myself that I need perfect silence when I work.
Turns out, this is completely untrue!
For some writing projects, I still need peace and quiet. But for a good chunk of my daily tasks, I’m a-okay pumping the tunes in the background.
Time goes much faster when I have some good music flowing through my ears. I think about the way I want to feel and then pop on a Spotify radio station for an artist who makes me feel that way.
(I also just discovered Spotify radio — you plug in an artist you love and they play a bunch of other music that sounds similar! It’s such a good way to find new bands and musicians.)
And of course, the Harry Potter soundtracks work juuuuust fine when I want something without lyrics. It’s mood-boosting AND helps me feel all magical. Double whammy.
2. Walking meetings…with myself
This is one of the weirder things I’ve started doing but it’s made such a big difference.
I read about the idea of walking meetings in Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, how big-shot executives are starting to have meetings while going for a walk. There’s science behind the idea that moving your body (walking, specifically) helps encourage creativity and new ideas.
But because I work predominantly with myself, this didn’t seem like a viable idea.
I started walking and talking…with myself.
I aim for two long walks throughout the week. On days when I’ve got a head full of business thoughts, I’ll grab my sneakers, my iPhone, and my Voice Memos app and talk through my ideas while I’m walking.
I totally pretend there’s a person on the other end of the line so as not to look like a crazy person while I’m recording myself. I’ve actually said, “Sorry, I’m back now,” into my headphones after I stopped to pet a dog and then realized it would look weird if I just jumped back into monologuing to myself.
Sometimes all that comes out is mumbo jumbo. But other times, it’s really good stuff!
I’m working on a program about email welcome sequences (dropping next month!!!) and had been really stuck on the best way to break up the content. I went for a walk and within 20 minutes, figured out the perfect way to split everything up into sensible, manageable chunks. Then I dreamed up a couple amazing bonuses. AND I talked through a blog post that I’ll use to promote the program. It was magic!
It feels good to move. It feels good to get creative ideas out. Combining the two has been such a game-changing way to mix business with pleasure.
3. Switching the scenery
Along with the “I need total silence to work!” lie I used to tell myself, I also thought I needed to be in my little home office to focus.
I started working from a coworking space a couple times a week, which has been such a great change. Things like riding the train, walking around the city, and having office chit chat around the kettle is SO good for my brain. It sparks something and actually helps me work better and faster.
Other days, I’ll walk to the coffee shop nearby for a few hours. I used to freak out about spending that couple of bucks on a coffee when I could make it at home (I love you Dave Ramsay, but you made me grip a liiiittle too tightly onto “unnecessary” expenses.) But it’s a few bucks well spent, when I consider how much the change helps my productivity.
Going out makes me appreciate days at home, too — when I can stay snuggled in bed later and don’t have to put on real clothes. More pleasure all around!
Even moving from my office to the kitchen table or the couch has been helpful. I used to think that working anywhere but from my desk was lazy or sloppy. But it makes work way more pleasant to switch things up.
4. No more “perfect” calls
One of the trickiest parts of my workday used to be client calls.
Is that weird? I feel like it’s weird. But they really used to add a ton of stress to my day.
I put tremendous pressure on myself for these calls to go PERFECTLY. For me to be 100% prepared, ask exactly the right questions, and be incredibly efficient with my client’s time.
But then I read a quote by Shauna Niequist (in Present Over Perfect) that made me rethink things…
“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that the best thing about me was I was organized.”
(So good, right?)
I’d been spending so much time, energy, and effort in trying to look like I had every detail tied up with a tight bow at all times. But who actually likes that person? Who has FUN talking to a know-it-all who has a fast answer for everything, without even taking a breath?
I wouldn’t enjoy that person. And once I realized that, I decided to loosen up my client calls and add some more pleasure into the process.
I switched my standard from wanting to be perfect to wanting to be human. I take time at the beginning of each call just to chat. I brew a cuppa tea right before meetings. I suggest a 5-minute break during calls longer than an hour. I humbly say, “Huh, ya stumped me. Let me think about it and get back to you,” when I want more space to explore an idea.
My #1 goal now is for calls to be an enjoyable part of my day and my client’s day, rather than being an impressive one. It’s a small shift but it’s made a huge difference.
Oh yeah, and I DON’T wear a face full of makeup anymore. I used to doll myself up for video calls and now, a quick swipe of mascara and blush is a-okay.
5. Blurring the lines between work and personal
For years, I was anal about my boundaries.
But not the good kind, where you say “no” to work overtaking your personal life. I was anal about not letting my life creep into work hours.
It drove my mom nuts (although she never complained) when we lived with her before moving to England because I had strict rules not to be disturbed between the hours of 9am and 5pm. Like literally, unless the house was burning down, please don’t knock on my door.
I had this fear that if I let life slip into my work hours, I’d quickly lose control and spend every day on the couch in a Real Housewives downward spiral.
Totally not true.
The last few months, I’ve been making my work hours way more flexible — mixing in more life to my workday and working pockets of nights and weekends.
As 1950s as it may sound, I really love keeping a tidy house and cooking dinner for Joe and me. But by the time 5pm rolls around, I’m usually pretty wiped and don’t get any joy out of those things.
Instead of feeling like Whitney Ryan, Copywriter and Whitney Ryan, Person are two separate people at two separate times, I’m blending the two.
My day now includes time for things like laundry, meal planning, walks with Brody, vacuuming, and my VERY favorite fall-time chore: sweater shaving. (Do you own a sweater shaver? Omg, you gotta get your hands on one asap and get ready for your life to be changed.) I finish work around 4:30 now so I can take my time cooking dinner and actually enjoy it.
These might not be your ideas of relaxing or satisfying activities, but they are for me. They’re quick wins. They’re things that make me feel good and accomplished.
I used to feel like doing anything besides work during the day was “cheating”. But why can’t I design my workday to be more than just work? I get to choose, duh. 😉
That often means I’ll need to spend some time working outside work hours…something I once thought was a huge sign of failure. But I find I really don’t mind putting in a couple hours on a Saturday morning or a night or two. If it means I get more balance in my workday, I’m all for it.
Mixing in life stuff is a really nice reminder that I’m more than JUST my work every day. As someone who can easily let my business determine my self-worth, this has been a really positive (and necessary) change.
6. Running while audiobooking
This one’s not so much about business. But it’s definitely about mixing fun into something that used to be not-so-fun…
A few months ago, I started running again. I haven’t properly run since high school track and I set the goal of getting my endurance back up.
I love running…for about five seconds until I feel tired. Then I HATE running.
I used to listen to fast playlists to get me pumped and forget that I was sweating buckets and my lungs were burning. I thought that pushing yourself as hard as you could was part of what “running” was about.
Then I tried something kinda opposite.
I don’t push myself to go hard or fast. I set out to have an ENJOYABLE run (crazy concept, right?) where I feel strong and relaxed coming back.
And it’s working!
I’m moving a lot slower. Sometimes I get embarrassed when I have to pass someone walking because I’m only jogging a hair faster than they are. But for the first time in years, I actually enjoy running…which I never thought I’d do.
I used to think exercise was this hard, uncomfortable feeling. But with a focus on pleasure, it’s actually something I look forward to now.
So there you go. 6 ways I’m mixing fun into not-so-fun stuff that’s making a world of difference in my business and my life.
Pick 1 (or all 6) and give ’em a whirl. If mixing biz + pleasj is good enough for Richard Branson, it’s good enough for us, right?
join the convo
What other ways do you mix business with pleasure?
Do you like to keep work and life separate? Or do you combine the two?
What are your favorite tunes to listen to while working?