Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

5 Simple Steps For Cutting Your Work Addiction Habit

Learn about a 5 step process that can help you boost productivity by tapping into the power of fun.

The following is a guest piece by Dave Crenshaw.

Have you become allergic to fun?

I suppose it’s an abrupt question to ask. If I were to ask that of someone, I can understand them taking it personally and responding with “buzz off” or some incantation of that phrase.

But, have you? Many of us have lost touch with our ability to enjoy, let alone have fun.

At some point our careers gained momentum. We gained moderate to significant success, and with success came responsibility, and with responsibility came the aversion to whimsy. For many in this situation, harmless diversions from our work were labeled as laziness; so, we trudged away day in and day out. After all, time is money. Money is labor. And, labor is time. Occasionally, hard time. Right?

Perpetual Motion vs Rhythm

The problem with this line of thinking is that it assumes being effectively productive means attacking your tasks and achieving your goals non-stop, every day, every hour, with reckless abandon. This isn’t productivity. This is perpetual motion. This is work addiction. And it’s the least productive way to work.

Our bodies have what is called a Ultradian Rhythm. Think of your body clock―your Circadian Rhythm. That’s the 24-hour cycle that your body goes through―from the time you wake up, to the time when you are at your most alert, to the time you go back to bed. Well, your Ultradian Rhythm is our mind and body’s productivity clock. Most people can work for roughly 90-120 minutes before they need some kind of break.

In my upcoming book, “The Power of Having Fun“, I call this break an “Oasis.” An Oasis is the fuel that recharges your mind and body. Think of any desert journey scene in any old Hollywood movie. Then, the protagonist, fighting thirst and exhaustion, miraculously happens upon an oasis with all the amenities needed to keep going.

You need not wait for this to happen. You can create these miraculous moments every day. By planning your daily Oasis, you have the power to not just be more productive, but to reenter the world as a happier person.

Here are the 5 steps you’ll need to break that cycle and experience the power of having fun!

Step One: Giving Yourself Permission
I want you to stop using one particular word when it comes to your work day. It’s a word you may not say out loud, but you probably think it regularly. That word is “deserve.” As in, “I deserve to relax because I closed a sale today.”

Oases (the plural of Oasis) are not earned because you did something good. In fact, they aren’t earned. A break is not a reward for completing a task or doing well for yourself. An Oasis is something that you need for success.

So, when you recontextualize “having fun” as a necessity, you’ll realize that any guilt you experience for partaking in these breaks is simply against your best interest. Move away from the idea of a desire to take a break and more towards a responsibility to take a break.

You have permission to take these breaks in the same way you have permission to do your job well. Both are good for your future and good for your company.

Step Two: Re-Discovering Real Fun
Remember what you did for fun back in the good old days, before you became your job? Go ahead, break out a pen and a pad and make a list.

Many, when given this assignment, begin writing things such as “volunteer at the animal shelter” or “read to children at the public library.” If that is your concept of relaxing, then…well, kudos to you. However, don’t feel like you need to write something respectable out of some desire to be an upstanding citizen.

When we speak of Oasis, we are speaking of making time for some activity that you―not someone else―find personally relaxing and recharging. It’s okay to say you like eating Flaming Hot Cheetos and watching soap operas. The most important rule when making this list is to be honest about what is meaningful to you. The other 95% of your day can be spent on saving the world…if you want.

Step Three: Your Schedule
Next, go into your calendar and make an appointment with yourself: an appointment to have fun. Many people in business use their calendar for meetings and task reminders so that stuff gets done. There’s something about that flashing screen telling you what to do next that is just so dependable.

Your calendar is your key to finding better productivity and having more fun! Scheduling Oases requires you to prioritize them. This may mean that you move meetings and other work-related events around to make time for your Oasis. That might mean that you have to say no to something. Whatever you must do, you must make Oases fit into your today. They’re a requirement, remember?

Now, don’t worry. A daily Oasis can be as short as ten minutes. Longer monthly or yearly Oases may last several days…or weeks, but are also fewer and farther between. Regardless of the length, all Oases must be in your calendar and remind you of when you need to stop everything and start having fun.

Think of the magnitude of your Oasis as being relative to the time you want to give up. Your ten-minute Oasis during the workday might be a bike ride in the parking garage or a quick YouTube binge. Your day off might consist of a 10-mile bike ride or a Netflix Binge.

The secret is, simply, to plan ahead!

Step 4: Protect Your Progress
Don’t be afraid to say no. In fact, get in the habit of saying it more often.

You’ve made your calendar available to the entire company. You hope the people you work with will understand your schedule. But when you’re a manager or a leader you will be bombarded with questions in the middle of the day. Expect it. When that question interferes with your Oasis, your Oasis must come first. Unless the building is literally on fire, responding to a quick question can wait the remaining seven and a half minutes until your Oasis is done. Seriously.

Rather than employing an “open door” policy, adopt a “closed door” open schedule policy. Create gaps of time in your schedule that you leave available to the people you manage. This way, you accomplish two things:

1. You protect your coveted time to yourself.
2. When an employee walks into your office, you don’t have to yell “Not now, I’m having an Oasis!” and consequently find yourself on one of the internet’s “Top 10 Weirdest Bosses List.”

Step 5: Enjoyment
So, you’re finally doing it and you’re taking time for Oases! But…what if something is still missing? What if you’re unable to invest fully in an Oasis? This is normal. I understand it. I don’t control the neurons that happen in your brain. Frankly, you might not either.

However, I’ve gone through this myself. I’ve had moments in my life when I felt numb to feeling enjoyment from anything good. Our pace of life is largely to blame.

If you find yourself unable to enjoy having fun, it helps to mentally, emotionally, and verbally acknowledge when something feels good to you. Say it out loud: “I’m having fun!” It may seem odd, yet actions like this can stop that hyperactive brain and tell it to pay attention, rather than just jump to the next email or to-do list item.

Like putting something on your schedule, acknowledging the things you enjoy doing plant a seed in your brain that having your daily Oasis can be extremely rewarding. Before long, you’ll be back to being your same old self, just more successful.

These five steps can get you back on track and boost your productivity through the power of having fun. The journey begins by simply taking the first step.

In the comments section below, please mentally, emotionally, and verbally acknowledge what kind of break is meaningful to you!

Dave Crenshaw is the master of building productive leaders and has transformed hundreds of thousands of business leaders worldwide. He has appeared in TIME magazine, USA Today, Fast Company, and the BBC News. He has written three books and counting, including “The Myth of Multitasking“, which was published in six languages and is a time-management bestseller. His fourth book, “The Power of Having Fun“, is now available. To learn more about Dave, visit his website: DaveCrenshaw.com.

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