Do you feel guilty when you take the time to do something just for you? It could be sitting down in front of Netflix. Maybe you love to disappear into the ether of social media with Facebook or Twitter. Many people love to sit back when there is a football (also known as soccer for my transatlantic chums) match on and forget about real life. I certainly fit into that category.
Yet why do we feel that guilt for taking a break? More importantly, how can we rid ourselves of that horrible feeling?
Let me tell you how I dealt with this issue myself.
I should say at the outset that as much as I’ve tried to fight it over the years, I can no longer hide the truth. I need to accept and embrace it as a core part of my life.
I’m a gamer.
There – it’s out there. That genie isn’t going back into the bottle anytime soon.
For the past eighteen months, I’ve devoted myself almost completely to my work and family. Nearly every waking hour has been spent driving myself forward. I’ve been studying, growing, loving and caring for those I hold most dear. Yet through all of this, something was left neglected. A part of me that existed for the previous thirty years was no more.
That deep yearning to play soccer like a pro, attack like a ninja and build constructions like an extra in The Lego Movie lay dormant.
Fortunately, my wife knows me better than anyone on this planet. So, on Christmas morning, I was the lucky recipient of an Xbox One. Best of all, the console came with the latest version of my favourite gaming franchise of all time, Fallout 4.
Inside I leapt for joy. Yet, at the same time, I felt horribly conflicted. As a productivity nut, I just found myself asking, “Where am I going to find the time to enjoy this?”
For the first two days, the Xbox sat in its box whilst I enjoyed spending quality time with my children, sharing their joy and living intentionally in the moment. All of these are things that can be very scarce when you lead the lifestyle I do. Then, on the 27th, I set it up and sat down to enjoy my gift. However, I found myself plagued with guilt. Not because I’d just learned how to decapitate someone virtually with a modified tire iron. No, this was because I kept asking myself the same question.
“What else should I be doing right now?”
That’s a horrible state to be in. I’m sure many of you reading this right now have been in the same position. For those that haven’t, just imagine being so used to living for others and being so busy that you feel guilt every time you take time out for yourself. That’s no way to live and fortunately, I was quick to realize this.
I needed to find a way of eradicating that guilt. I had to develop a system that would allow me to enjoy this down-time and know that this is what I should be doing now, without sitting in my own judgement.
That’s when my Apple Watch did it’s 8pm jig on my wrist and I had that eureka moment. (Those pop up in my head every so often.)
Streaks is my current habit tracker of choice. Every evening the app would alerting me to the fact that three of the habits I had set were still waiting on me to clear them for the day. One of these I could readily explain, owing to the fact that I was on my holidays and watching my daily Lynda.com video simply wasn’t the appropriate use of my time.
However, I had two other habits that were difficult to integrate. One was an increased step count for the day. For some reason, I continually fell short on that goal. The last goal was to conduct a daily review of my journal entries. This something that would benefit me in the long term, yet for whatever reason, I just couldn’t get it into my daily routine.
Remember, just because we write about productivity, that doesn’t make us infallible. We are all humans after all.
I also was struggling with my wake-up time. I found myself using the snooze button more than ever. Something needed to change.
Then I came up with an idea.
What if I rewarded myself for the successful completion of these habits (or rituals) with dedicated gaming time? Then, when I sat down to play, I would feel as though it was something that I had earned.
So this is exactly what I did. I now have four habits/rituals that are set in Streaks every single day. Every time one of these is achieved, I earn fifteen minutes in my Xbox ‘bank’. Now, there is never more than an hour spent a day enjoying this little luxury of mine. When the habit has formed (which from experience will be around thirty days) then I moved it away from Streaks and replaced one habit with another.
In order to help decide on which action to replace it with, I review my quarterly goals and see where I need help. If all seems to be fine, I look at a higher level at the hats I wear. How can I improve as a father? A husband? A businessman? A student? A home owner? I look for habits that will help fulfill my goals and push me to be the best version of myself I can.
I’ve always functioned best when I know that I’m going to be rewarded with something. I used to feel guilty about this, but not any longer. I know there are many other people just like me out there, which is why I feel great about writing this post.
Using my Xbox bank means that now I can partake in virtual gratuitous violence without feeling a twinge of guilt.
What a way to live.
You too can take the guilt away from your own ‘guilty’ pleasures by treating them as rewards. The fourth season of House of Cards is out on Netflix soon. Wouldn’t it be great if you could start working towards this treat now so you can binge-watch and not feel bad at all?
I can’t think of a better way to work towards being the best version of myself.