Reap the benefits of your hard work

Last Wednesday, I was in a foul mood. If you knew me in the world beyond your computer screen, you would know that I am normally an upbeat person. I usually have a smile on my face or am lost in thought, but it’s rare for me to be snippy with people and angry. But on Wednesday, I was fuming most of the day and wanted to crush things like Hal did in season four, episode four of Malcolm in the Middle.

Nothing in particular set off my frustration, it was just a bad day. We all have them, and last Wednesday was my turn. When I woke up on Thursday morning, I was back to normal and the foul mood was behind me.

Right after breakfast on Thursday, I checked my RSS feed reader and pulled up the following from Atlanta-based professional organizer Monica Ricci:

What’s so great about being focused and productive? When you work hard at being focused and productive, then it’s easier to feel okay about having FUN! So I got to thinking about what fun stuff I like to do in the evenings. What are your guilty pleasures?

Reading these words hit me like a brick. I have been working very long hours recently, been extremely productive, and I have done nothing that could be considered FUN. Was my awful mood on Wednesday a result of not taking any time to experience the benefits of my hard work? I think it was.

I immediately looked at my Upcoming Events folder and found three things I’ve been wanting to do. I made the necessary calls for these events, and now I have scheduled fun on my calendar. At Unclutterer we talk about keeping clutter out of our lives and having an organized home and office for the purpose of freeing time and energy for a remarkable life. I lost sight of the life part, and that is a bad idea.

How about you? Are you reaping the rewards of your productivity and hard work? Or are you just putting in effort and reaping none of the benefits?

13 Comments for “Reap the benefits of your hard work”

  1. posted by Peggy on

    There’s a contradiction in Ms. Ricci’s words. She says it’s easier to feel okay about having fun if you’ve worked hard (a sentiment I’m not sure I agree with, but I digress) — and then asks about GUILTY pleasures.

    If it’s OKAY to have fun, why should we then feel GUILTY about it?

  2. posted by Miguel de Luis on

    I agree that fun is more fun when we have worked hard. Even going to bed is a pleasure in itself.

    Peggy, it’s all a question of balance and to never forget that neither fun or work are just means to a happier life. I guess we can feel guilty if we had made an idol of hard work and perfectionism.

    It happens to everybody, I’m afraid.

  3. posted by Another Deb on

    Without a structure and a plan for reaching your goals, there is little productivity. Yesterday’s post on setting goals ties in to this post about enjoying your fun activities.

    As a teacher, sleep deprivation is a huge issue in my life already, and feeling like I never have my own time has been dragging me down for many years.

    When I fail to manage my time, I end up working into the ancient hours, then end up too tired to be productive. The next day the cycle continues and I am too tired to even start out productive. I veg-out by reading e-mail or surfing websites to gather more mental clutter that I will never have time to use in class.

    Tackle the tough jobs first, yes. Get them out of the way when you have the most energy. But also, know when to change how you do things. There are some “jobs” that you can eliminate by reducing perfectionism or by prioritizing.

    I have stopped grading notebooks once a quarter, for instance. This used to take about three days of staying at school until 9 at night each quarter. Students grade each other’s each week and I take the scores. I check the daily entry each day because I have to stamp their planner, so I do read what is in them.

    Ok, so I am starting my grading on Saturday morning this weekend in hopes that I won’t be up all night on Sunday!

  4. posted by Keter on

    I think the missed point is that most of us have such high expectations for productivity – many of which are externally motivated – that sometimes we don’t have time to enable the enabler. We would do so if we could choose to, but Maslow’s Hierarchy makes the choice for us: working extra hours to keep from getting fired vs. spending those hours on self-actualization activities.

    As a high-tech worker, I have had jobs that required – REQUIRED – over 80 hours a week. I had two that required over 100 hours a week. That doesn’t leave enough time for basics like sleep and cleaning. Most of those jobs ended in a big layoff – so no benefit from all the hard work at all.

    I quit my last job when they reorganized for the fourth time in two years (thus proving their abject cluelessness). I’m writing a book and remodeling my kitchen while I figure out what to do next. It will not be what I was doing before, that’s for sure.

  5. posted by Lori on

    It helps me to take a step back every so often and examine my commitments in light of my goals. In fact, I did this just a few weeks ago. My goals have changed a lot recently. Since the beginning of 2007, I’ve gone back to full-time freelancing, got married, sold my house and his house and bought a different house, dealt with a couple of family crises, and grown my hobby into a viable second business. I found that there were things I needed and wanted to do relating to these new goals that I just couldn’t squeeze into the existing calendar.

    I took a serious look at where my time was going, and I made a hard but deliberate decision to drop my most time-sucking volunteer commitment when my board term is up for renewal early next year and keep a very close handle on the time my other major volunteer commitment takes (not letting it take over the time vacated by the former, and not taking on any additional responsibility). This will free up 20 hours a month or so to focus on my new priorites.

  6. posted by Andamom on

    On the 22nd, I wrote a post on Andamom that had to do with fixing issues that had been identified. (See: In the post, I talk about being busy — but realizing that to be happier I could make changes like scheduling my calendar with activities that I want to participate in.

    Ironically, it is going to be a rainy weekend. The things that I had penciled into my calendar were for a sunny weekend. So, now I am back-pedaling trying to find things. Honestly, I’m a wee bit tired of being in the house already… and in need of some true fun because like you I work hard at a stressful job (in financial services), parents 2 children (14 and 2), and deal with many other things. Ironically though, the volunteer work I do is liberating and enjoyable.

    Life is about a journey – but with kids who always need a lot of my time, energy, and money, I find that my me time has virtually vanished. For me, it is a matter of time — my daughter will be in college in 4 years and her brother will start kindergarten in 3 years. Ask me then about reaping the benefits.

  7. posted by Adam on

    Unfortunatly, I think the latter is true for me. I’ve hard working and productive, but have next to no friends left. I haven’t really thought that the two were related.. but I could see that they could be, work often does leave me with a -short- fuse.

  8. posted by Harmony on

    This exact issue has struck me for years as being one of the major problems with the productivity culture and indeed with society in general – people just don’t seem to have enough FUN. Everyone is so busy doing more, being more, having more, that they never take any time out to actually enjoy life.

    I’ve always believed fun is absolutely essential to happiness. I work very hard and am very productive and organised, but I make fun as high a priority on my list as anything else (work, productivity, etc).

    I like to set deadlines to help me do this – for example every Saturday I give myself until 1 PM – no later – to get things done. After that the rest of the day is dedicated to having fun, relaxing, seeing friends, etc. This deadline also motivates me to get up earlier on my days off so I can get a bit more done before my 1 PM deadline.

    Same deal with weeknights – I work hard all day, so when I come home I don’t do anything more productive than checking a few emails. I spend every work-night evening just chilling out and it makes SUCH a difference, I am much happier overall, and more focused and productive at work.

    The only downside to this system is I don’t get as much of the stuff on my to-do list done as other people, but something I’ve learnt is there’s *always* more stuff to do… that to-do list never finishes! So I’m not going to sacrifice time to relax and have fun in favor of doing more stuff because it will never all be finished anyway, and by setting limits on myself I also force myself to concentrate on what’s truly essential.

    Anyway I hope this is useful to someone 🙂 Great post and very timely!



  9. posted by Fit Bottomed Girls on

    I make sure that when I work really hard during the week that come Friday night and all of Saturday, I do nothing but have fun! Then on Sunday, I’m back to it. It works for me!

  10. posted by Liora on

    Yes, I’m reaping the benefits of hard work, but I’m finding that sometimes there’s quite a delay between the sowing and the reaping. However, if you keep planting seeds, when they do start springing up, they do much reseeding for you. I feel like I’m stuck in a metaphor here; so basically, if you keep staying pointed in the right direction, doing the right things, staying focused on your goals, revising your goals as necessary, you will eventually see payoff. Sometimes it takes time. That’s what the evenings are for. Rest. Live in today. And find a way to enjoy today, even those days with lots of stress. Life is too precious to wait to live it just for the reaping.

  11. posted by FrugalSue on

    I identified very much with this entry. Even though I enjoy my part-time job, my small business, and the responsibilities of being a parent and having a home, I also need to have things on my calendar that I’m looking forward to.

    My favorite fun things involve creativity, travel and being out of doors. So I set aside one evening a week to do artwork, I take a walk through my garden each day, and I am always planning the next trip, whether it’s just an overnight at a local state park or a longer vacation to a more exotic destination.

    I also try to increase the size of my circle of friends and the depth of my friendships. Every day I make sure I call someone for a good chat or write someone an email or letter.

    My daily “tasks” to stay connected with myself and others take just a few minutes, but they make me feel really good all day. When I don’t do them, I feel like crushing stuff, too!

  12. posted by Shalin on

    What about a job that you find fun? Then again, there’s still burnout…

    But…for me, outside of fun through my profession/career, I find going out for the night, movies, etc. to be rewards for having been productive. Sometimes though, you gotta do something to prevent burnout regardless…

    I’ve gotta say, I feel great when I know I’ve been productive – I can look back and smile at what I’ve done and what I’ve learned. Then, I typically celebrate in some modest way.

    I know that I could have fun more often…but similarly to getting to comfortable in a job, I don’t want to get to comfortable in spoiling myself having fun either…

    so…I guess you have to figure out what exactly defines “fun” for yourself and how to have a healthy amount of it in your life…hmmm…


  13. posted by Nehal on

    I’ve felt this contradiction myself. I’ve increased my productivity, but still manage to free up time for myself. Allow me to explain:

    I work in a corporate job and have pretty consistently worked 8-9 hour days for as long as I can remember. There are occasions when I need to pull some long hours (prototype turn-on, etc), but 8-9 hours is the norm.

    A few years ago, I would have quite a bit of time to wander and socialize at work throughout the day. In the past couple years, however, I’ve increased my productivity and taken on more responsibility. So now I get in around 7:30am (gotta love 8am meetings), leave at around 5pm, and am pretty well slammed all hours in-between with phone conferences and technical work.

    However, because I feel so productive throughout the day, I have no guilt leaving consistently at a reasonable time (even as I see co-workers working long hours), and leaving my work at work to be dealt with the next day. It helps when you’ve committed to meet friends for a workout at 5:30 every day.

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