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Welcome to my island of sanity and serenity. I'm Sandra Pawula - writer, mindfulness teacher and advocate of ease. I help deep thinking, heart-centered people find greater ease — emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Curious? Read On!

How to Balance Work and Play

Woman on beach; balance work and play I probably have a relatively relaxed life compared to the average person. I sleep late, meditate, and soak in the hot pond almost every day.

That’s a major improvement from when I worked 6-7 days a week and took phone calls from Europe in the middle of the night, completely messing up a restorative sleep pattern.

So you can imagine the surprise I felt when recently, during a Lomilomi treatment (a healing practice from native Hawaiian healers), my friend suggested I needed more play time. He recommended a 1:2 work to play ratio for me.

A 1:2 work to play ratio means:

  • 2 hours of play for every hour of work
  • 4 four hours of play for every 2 hours of work
  • 6 hours of play for every 3 hours of work

Mind-boggling, don’t you think? I had to do the math more than once in my head, trying to make sense out of the numbers. Being who I am, I wanted to negotiate immediately, “Does it include evenings and weekends?”

Try a Mini Work/Play Assessment

This particular prescription is specific to me, taking into account my unique health considerations. But, maybe you could also benefit from exploring your ideal work to play ratio.

If so, try out this mini work/play assessment:

  • How often do you play?
  • What's your current work to play ratio? Make two columns on a piece of paper, one called worked and the other called play. List your work activities on one side and your play activities on the other, along with the amount of time you spend on each.
  • How do you differentiate work from play?
  • What constitutes play in your life?
  • Does your current breakdown of work and play support a happy, healthy, and balanced life?
  • Would you benefit from more play and less work?
  • Is there something that keeps you from playing more?

Your definition of play might be different from mine and that’s okay. I loosely group all enjoyable and relaxing activities - the ones when I don’t feel a sense of responsibility - into play.

For me, play can be anything from reading a book, to taking a nap, to hanging out with my husband or friends. It can be physical activities like walking, swimming, and yoga.

The key is to:

  • Know what feels like play to you
  • Find the right work/play balance for you

Why Don’t We Play More?

My friend’s recommendation reminded me of the advice given, many years ago, by a Tibetan doctor to a woman with fatigue. He told her, “Don’t do anything.” That included avoiding television and driving in cars, activities we may take for granted without realizing how inherently stimulating they are.

Most of us don’t recognize how much downtime or fun our body needs when it’s compromised, or we’re walking the narrow and dangerous path of too much stress. And, even if someone tells you, there’s a good chance you might not listen. Because, there are many reasons that might keep you from getting sufficient play and relaxation in your life. For example:

  • Fear of open space (or nothingness). If you’re used to being busy, slowing down can feel threatening.
  • Fear of having to face yourself. Busyness may keep you from facing what’s not working in your life.
  • Fear of letting go of your identity, which may be entwined with your work.
  • Fear of being left behind or left out, given all the expectations at work.
  • Fear of financial loss, especially in these challenging economic times.

Other subtle patterns may dictate the pace of your life. For example, I have my “pusher,” an inner voice that prompts me to keep going and to do more no matter what.

Some of these may be reasonable fears that need to be taken into account.  But often, we're held back by old beliefs that no longer fit or enhance our life.

Make More Time with the 80/20 Principle

On one level, I was surprised to hear I need more play. But, deep within, I’ve been yearning to do less. I just needed a gentle kick to heed the wisdom of my body and the intelligence of my inner voice.

In a sense, I’ve been given permission now.  So I’m eager to make more time for play.  I've started by applying the Pareto or 80/20 Principle to my work. Although this idea can be expressed in different ways, this form works perfectly for my purposes: 80% of profit comes from 20% of one’s work activity.

I’m examining my work time to see which activities:

  • Make the most money?
  • Have the most positive impact?
  • Are low producers?
  • Are time wasters?
  • Are most enjoyable?
  • Cost too much in terms of my emotional or physical well-being?

I am also sharpening my capacity for:

  • Listening to my body
  • Paying attention to my inner voice
  • Being aware of when the “pusher” comes on stage so I don't cave into it
  • Learning to consciously stop

It goes without question that people come first in my world. I’m here to serve so it’s not just a matter of a mathematical formula. But, I also know you can’t serve effectively when you’re drained, wasted, and burned out. The 80/20 formula is just a skillful way to start getting a handle on your life.

Is It Time to Inject More Play Into Your Life?

Refining my work-play ratio is the perfect unfolding in my "year with less pressure."  However, I know it can feel disorienting at first when you have more space and time.  So just go at it slowly, and you'll find your capacity for play naturally expanding.

I want to be clear there’s nothing wrong with having a full and meaningful work life. But, it doesn’t necessarily have to occur in 40-60 hours per week.  “40” hours is just a culturally endorsed number for the work week in some parts of the world. But, in others, people work far less.

If you find your joy, health, or relationships are compromised, maybe it’s time to explore your work to play ratio too.  Or, maybe it would be smart to inject more play into your life before you’ve damaged yourself.

What do you think?  Would you be keen to have more play in your life?

 P. S.  Want to let go of some stress?  My self-paced Living with Ease, The Mindful Way to Dissolve Stress e-course is a systematic guide, which shows you how to live with more ease.  Why not check it out right now!

Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious!  Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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