I make it compulsory for me to play games every day.
It sounds pretty ridiculous, doesn’t it? After all, who needs to be ordered to slack off and relax? Isn’t everyone naturally good at those?
But it’s true.
Just a few months ago, I completely lost the ability to play games; something that had never happened before. I would launch a game, mess around for a few minutes, find it completely boring and quit the game. I stopped playing any games for a few months straight. Totally clean and sober.
It’s a good thing, isn’t it?
I tried for years to get rid of gaming — something I saw as unproductive — for good, and now I’ve finally done it.
I should be happy, elated, even fulfilled! With gaming out of my life completely, I have that many more hours for more productive things in my life. Writing, more acting jobs, blogging, reading, practising the piano. Three cheers for more time in my life!
What happened? Where did all my extra hours go?
Well, instead of gaming, I was forced to seek relaxation through other means which, in my case, took form in drama series and anime.
I sat on Big Ben (my couch) for hours and hours watching episodes after episodes. I felt terrible, like a rotting skeleton on a couch, which didn’t help when it’s really, really comfortable.
I didn’t know why I felt like that then, but now I am wiser:
I wasn’t deriving any pleasure from those forms of relaxation. It certainly didn’t make me stop thinking about work and what a piece of lazy ass I am for not doing work. I fell into a vicious cycle of guilt and procrastination.
I procrastinated because at the end of one work, was work.
Then I felt guilty for not doing any work. Because it sure didn’t sound like fun to do work, so that I can do more work!
No motivation to work.
My complete confidence in myself that I was a lazy good-for-nothing reinforced my lack of motivation.
For relaxations to be effective, it has to take your mind off work. It cannot contain any traces of guilt! Guilt makes you think about your work. You’re not in the present.
I didn’t realize it then, but I was on the highway to anxiety at 120 km/hr. I was THIS close. But I knew I wasn’t feeling happy. And that was as good enough a warning as any that something needed to change.
Not everything needs to be productive, I told myself.
If I’m fixated only on productive activities, I don’t see how I’ll be able to enjoy any form of relaxation because NOTHING that is relaxing is productive, in the literal, dictionary sense.
So now I impose a rule on myself that I must play every day. With a condition: I must have also done the day’s work.
By allocating time for both work and play, I take the guilt away from my play time, and the dread (which led to procrastination) away from work time.
With both work and play fairly allocated, my mind is assured and be used to focus on the task on hand. I stopped worrying if I have enough time to play when I’m working because I know when it’s time to “get off work”. At the same time I stop feeling guilty when I am relaxing because I know I have already done my work for the day.
Here’s the best part: I can’t cheat myself even if I wanted to.
I know this because I tried to.
I had a particular hard time writing a story I’m working on and I played games before the clock hit the magical hour. The whole experience was nasty. It left a really bad aftertaste; but it was a good experience. Because I now know what will happen.
I also know exactly why I felt that way:
I didn’t complete my day of fair work and I tried to cheat myself, which was obviously a bad game plan.
It’s hard to not overwork yourself when you’re a freelancer and no one else tells you when you should get off work and go do something else. I often feel guilty for enjoying my time, which is pretty stupid because I didn’t want to feel like shit in employment in the first place.
So every day I work until the magical hour strikes, then I stop whatever I’m working on completely, and go play games.
… Which is now.