The Importance Of Playtime As A Freelancer

4 MIN READ
Posted By Brandon Yanofsky on

I walked into Chris Lema's WordCamp Denver talk and left thinking, “Heck, I need more play time.” It was just one line of Chris’s amazing talk. I don’t remember the exact wording, but it went something along the lines of:

This got me thinking and lead me to do some investigation of my own.

This got me thinking and led me to do some investigation of my own. And, as I expected, Chris was right.It’s important to improve not only your work but also your health.

So, here are three reasons we, as WordPress freelancers, need to get our playtime back, and how to do so...

1. Improve Your Skills (Or Get New Ones)

I remember as a kid, wandering aimlessly through the library and finding random books. Ones I didn’t even know existed, on topics I had no clue about. But I’d read them anyway and gain new insights into the world.

The same happens during playtime.

Pursuing an outside interest or hobby is a great way to play, while at the same time learn a new skill.

It could be something completely random, out of left field. I remember a while back reading about the Eames lounge chair and thinking what a cool design it was (primarily because it reminded me of Mad Men). A few months later, I heard about an art exhibit that was showcasing objects from the same time and by similar designers. Which then led me to a documentary on industrial designers. Which led me to a course on design. That design course has driven the way I design websites and create products.

None of which would have happened without pursuing that outside interest.

Or, for a more direct example, I like to spend mornings learning about programming. I take free classes online through Udacity. And one of the classes I came across was learning GIT. It was intended for helping manage the programming projects I was working on, but I immediately began using it in my development work.

2. De-stress

Every freelancer I meet tells me that the work they do carries with it a high level of stress and anxiety.

For many, it can be hard to shake off.

In the article “Out Play Stress: Focus on a Game”, the author states:

One of the best ways to decrease your anxiety is to shift your attention to a different task and tune out distractions. Focusing your attention can eliminate the jumbled stream of thoughts in your mind that may be worsening your stress...Many types of games and hobbies can be effective de-stressors because they help you redirect your focus while also stimulating your mind.

I do just that. After a stressful meeting with a client, or when shifting from one project to another, I’ll take a few minutes and play a puzzle game on my iPhone (a lot of times it’s chess). That few minutes of distractions allows me to let go of any thoughts or anxiety from the previous task and begin anew on the next task.

3. Problem Solving

You’ve probably heard the anecdote that you should take a nap when you are stuck with a problem, and the solution will come to you in your sleep.

Well, it works (sort of like that).

When I hit a roadblock in my development work, my natural instinct is just to keep working at it until I solve it.

But I can spend hours and not come up with a solution.

Instead, I’ll go to the gym, or watch a TED video, or even just read a magazine.

When I come back to the problem, I have a clear head, and a new perspective. And I’m able to see how to solve the problem.

Don’t Have Time For Play?

When I mention the idea of play to a lot of freelancers, they usually tell me that they just don’t have time for it.

I used to say the same thing as well. But here’s my take on it now…

You have three options:

  1. Make time and protect it. I found that I could wake up an hour earlier and use that time for my Udacity courses. Maybe instead of an hour lunch, only take 30 minutes and spend the other 30 “playing”;
  2. Charge more, and work fewer hours. This is probably the hardest thing for people to do, but most freelancers just aren’t charging enough. You should be able to have time in your day to take a break when needed and not overwork;
  3. Do work that brings about a state of “flow”. Flow is what describes the state where you are engaged in an activity when time just seems to fly by. It can be hard to find work that brings about a state of flow, because sometimes, that means changing your job completely.

Now, it’s time to go out there and play.

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