Have we filled our days with so many commitments we've left no time for fun? Worse, have we forgotten how to have fun?
In the U.S., summer is upon us, which means a break from school for a lot of people. All my kids are grown and out of the house, but I remember how when I was a kid, I would look forward to summer break and the fun we would have.
That got me thinking about how rarely I make time now to do things just to have fun. Why is that and what can I do about it?
So I thought I would do some investigation, give you my input, and also share some ideas from the TPW community.
What is Fun?
enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure.
“the children were having fun in the play area”
|synonyms:||enjoyment, entertainment, amusement, pleasure; More|
amusing, entertaining, or enjoyable.
“it was a fun evening”
|synonyms:||enjoyable, entertaining, amusing, diverting, pleasurable, pleasing, agreeable, interesting
“a fun evening”
When you’re a kid, fun is playing outside with your friends, running around, laughing a lot, playing make-believe, playing games, building forts. But what is fun now as adults? Are we so focused on being productive (getting things done) that we lose sight of just enjoying life and experiencing that light-hearted pleasure? Sometimes I think that maybe I have!
I'm serious about the things I do. I’m serious about my law practice, my responsibility to provide good content on the podcast, and the writing I do. I spend time thinking about it and working on it. Have I forgotten how to just have fun?
While I was researching this topic, I asked the TPW community what they do for fun, and got lots of responses! Later in the post, I’ll share some of the community's ideas for us to try.
I thought it was interesting to see a comment or two from women who said they had to stop and think about it for a minute. That’s how I felt. I have to stop and think, “What do I think of for fun?” I take breaks. I read a lot, although often it’s focused on either personal development or research for podcast episodes. I watch funny YouTube videos or TV shows I’ve recorded. Occasionally I go to movies with my husband. Sometimes I go shopping for pretty things for the house. But would I call those things fun? Hmm . . .
“There’s a difference between “fun” and enjoyable I think. Lots of things I do are enjoyable and relaxing, but fun? As in that joyful bubbling that kids experience? That’s a harder question.”
~ Coryne from the TPW Facebook community
I ran across an article on Parenting.com that cited a survey of moms on this question. The survey found that as many as 79% of moms want more fun in their lives, and 63% of moms (in the US) say they’re having less fun now than they did 10 years ago (“Moms Just Want to Have Fun! But They Aren’t, Survey Says”). Interestingly, 90% of the moms surveyed reported feeling overly stressed. The article asks, “are we mothers facing a ‘fun deficit’ crisis?”
Why don’t we make time for fun?
So if we’re not having fun, why not? Why don’t we take time for fun?
- Guilt – We feel we should be doing something “more productive.”
- Lack of Time – Our days are filled with responsibilities.
- Tired – After working on our job, our side hustle, house stuff (cooking, cleaning, etc.), tending to family and friends, we drop into the bed at night too exhausted to even think of what’s fun, much less do anything fun.
- Health – Our bodies won’t cooperate, whether due to illness or injury or symptoms of stress such as fatigue, and interfere with us doing things we might otherwise do that are fun.
- Lack of money – According to the Parenting survey, 61% of the respondents said they don’t have extra money to spend on fun or activities
- Lack of confidence – One article (“Girls just want to have fun”) from a few years ago cited a poll of women in the UK, 35% of whom believe they’re boring, and a majority of whom say they’re too shy to instigate fun, with only 1 in 7 claiming to be an “instigator of fun”.
How can we make more time for fun?
So how can we make more time for fun? We can look at all the reasons we don’t and try to address them, starting with the guilt. I think that’s a mindset issue. We’ve done several episodes on the podcast (see here and here, for example) and had lots of conversations about that issue on the TPW Community Facebook group about feeling guilty when you’re not doing something “productive,” as if having fun equals not being productive.
I want to encourage you to go back to what I’ve said before about the importance of self-care. Making time for fun is part of that self-care, and self-care is not a break from being productive. It is part of being productive. If we don't take care of ourselves, body, mind, heart and soul, we won’t have the physical, emotional, or mental energy to do what it takes to create a life that matters.
It’s easy to say we shouldn’t feel guilty about having fun, but it is harder to persuade ourselves it's true. I think this is something we all need to work on, to get past the idea that “If I’m off having fun, somehow I’m being selfish, lazy, and not being productive.” We have to do the mind work to get past that and recognize that this is part of the human experience and part of living a productive life in the best sense. So giving ourselves the permission to have fun would be the first step.
The next thing to do is simply make it a priority. Set aside a time or day for fun. Put it on the calendar and budget for it–start setting aside some funds to do these things. Make it a point to do that because nobody else is going to do it for us.
Third, start a list of things to do for fun–things you’ve always wanted to do, have enjoyed doing in the past, or would like to try–so if free time pops up you don’t waste it trying to think of something fun to do with it. Start assembling a list of fun stuff to do in your bullet journal or notes app on your smartphone or tablet. If you live with others (your spouse, kids, or roommate), get them involved in brainstorming and collecting ideas of things you can do collectively. Put up a whiteboard or create a list that anybody can add to.
Finally, use the productivity tools we talk about on the show to work smarter and more efficiently on the necessities so they don’t take up your whole day. Specifically, declutter your space and calendar. Get rid of stuff so you spend less time cleaning and maintaining it.
- What are you doing that doesn’t need to be done?
- What activities can you cancel or get out of altogether?
- What “un-fun” activities can you cut out to make time in your life for something fun?
- What activities can you outsource or delegate?
In the US, most of us don’t take our vacation days. Take yours and do something fun!
What can we do for fun?
Supposing we've carved out the time for fun, what are some things we can do? As I mentioned before, when I have the rare time to spend on fun, my mind tends to go blank, I can't think of anything fun to do, and I end up watching another episode of a TV show or puttering around the house, which may be relaxing, but then I end up regretting a missed opportunity to do something fun.
The Parenting.com article suggests some ways to add fun without spending a ton of money:
- Get outside. Take a walk on the local nature trail or go for a family hike. Take photos.
- Visit local cultural institutions like museums, science centers, and the zoo which are often free
The TPW community shared some things they do for fun. Maybe you’ll find some ideas here.
Reading and playing games
- Do puzzles, play board and card games such as Dominion, Puerto Rico, Settlers of Catan, 7Wonders
- Crossword puzzles
Listening to favorite music (while doing other things you enjoy) or playing music
- Play or learn a musical instrument
- Dance to your favorite music
- Listen to music while cooking, gardening, stargazing
Get outside and get active
- Go for a ride on your bike
- Walk on a local trail
- Dance (Zumba!)
- Play or run/walk with pets
- Take photos
- Go camping
- Horseback riding
Art and crafts
- Cross-stitch, knit, crochet, quilt, sew
- Make a fairy garden
- Garden and greenhouse
- Paint rocks (thekindnessrocksprojects.com)
Do something with friends
- Eat out
- Go to a movie
- Go for a walk
- Take a trip
- Go to live performances & concerts
- Sing in an audition group
- Share coffee and a chat at home
- Go on lunch dates with colleagues and try new cuisines
- Join a running club
- Scrapbook with friends
- Go out to movies, restaurants or concerts with friends
- Celebrate birthdays and other occasions
Explore your local environment and attractions
- Go on drives with your spouse
- Take pictures of historical sites and old buildings
- Walk through the farmer’s market
- Go to the local museum
- Go to the library
- Stroll downtown
- Find small community festivals
- Sit on your balcony and sip wine
- Binge watch TV shows
- Lie back on a chair in the backyard and listen to music while admiring the stars
- Just do nothing
- Road trips
- Themed trips: “Hit all the presidential libraries with my kids and husband”
Mix of things
- Make to-do list
- Drink coffee in the car while driving around with your toddler
- Have a day of no plans
- Eat out and try different cuisines
- Listen to podcasts
- Decorate in your bullet journal or planners
- Attend conferences for work, hobbies, and interests and learn from them
- Try out new recipes
- Study productivity
- Prepare for emergencies
- Watch your kids participating in sports
Fun, however you define it, is an important part of making a life that matters. We can fill up every minute pursuing completion of our long to-do lists, but even when our list is filled with important, meaningful tasks, still . . . laughter, relaxation, exploration, all those things help us to be happier, healthier, and more able to give our best self to the world. Isn’t that what making a life that matters is all about?
What do you think?
Do you make time for fun in your life? Share how you do it, and what you do for fun! Please share them in the comments section below this post or in the TPW Community Facebook group or send me an email.
Resources and Links
Ladies of the TPW Facebook community, thank you for your input and ideas!
Sandy, Joyce, Janet, Katie, Barbara, Deanna, Claire, Kelly R., Kelly M., Mandy, Leticia, Joyce, Dina, Kat, Maureen, Brooke, Cheryl, Kathy, Lisa, Layla, Stephanie, Patty, Frances, Lauren, Paola, Dinah, Andrea, Alison, Grace, Claire, Vivian, Georgy, Wendy, Judith, Rita, Kelly S. Brandi, Lynette, Liz
Announcements & Reminders
- Ask Me Anything! July is a big month for The Productive Woman! We are reaching our 4-year anniversary and publishing episode 200! I want to celebrate, but also thank those who listen and who’ve been part of the community these past years. I'll be announcing a giveaway, so watch for information about that. In the coming weeks, I'll be doing some special episodes. One will be an “Ask Me Anything” episode. This is your chance to ask me any questions you might have for me: about productivity, about the podcast, about me, about the meaning of life. . . . Email your questions to me or click on the Voice Message button on the website to ask. I might play your question on the podcast, so keep it short: “Hi, this is Susie from San Antonio. My question is ____________.” I’ll answer as many of the questions as I can in the episode. Assembling the questions and prepping the episode will take a little time, so please be sure to get your questions to me by June 10, 2018.
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