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How can I make time for myself?: Five Ways to Prioritise Fun Without Feeling Guilty

Do you ever think that life is so full of responsibilities and to do items that there’s no room to do anything fun?


Fun for you. Not for the kids. Not for your partner. Not for “self-care”. Not because you’ll learn or achieve something useful. Just straight up fun. Silly. Joyful. Laughter making. Euphoric. Fun.


Do you ever just think “fuck it, I’m doing this random fun thing today”.


fairground fun

I bet you don’t. Or at least, not often enough.


Before you dismiss the idea of fun with a throw away “I don’t have the time” or “there’s too much other stuff to do” or “I have to finish X first” or “I have to be available to everyone else in case something goes wrong” or whatever other reasons you can think of.


Hear me out.


Making room for frivolity is most important when life is stressful or busy or sad.


Fun is the valve on top of the pressure cooker, that lets out the steam and stops the whole thing from exploding.


(Are pressure cookers even a thing anymore. I was born in the 70s, what can I say…)


I am going to tell you some easy and cheap ways to have fun, and why it’s so important that you learn to be spontaneous, frivolous and a little bit self-focused.


Having fun doesn’t have to cost a lot and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. But you’d better do it, or you’ll end up feeling burned out and washed up.


How we eschew* fun


Aren’t we all fixated a bit on living a purpose driven life? Or on being productive? Don’t we spend a lot of time trying to improve ourselves?


Doesn’t that sound like we have unwittingly swallowed the puritan work ethic and applied it to all areas of life?


Looking after yourself and doing things you enjoy can become another item on an endless list of obligations. All the nice things become another chore.


Fun and self-care have become co-opted into the idea that all actions must be purposeful and have productive or useful outcomes. They find themselves at the bottom of the productivity hierarchy, and fall off the list.



to do list

I coach predominantly women.


And let me tell you this: women are very often all about taking care of other people’s needs.


Women focus a lot on acts of kindness and service. Women are frequently driven by duty and obligation. Or by the dreaded shoulds, oughts and musts.


So making a priority out of pleasure and enjoyment can feel uncomfortable.


But not making space for pointless pleasure comes with real costs. When we lose touch with doing things we value and enjoy we lose touch with a large part of who we are.


Is it selfish to make time for myself?


It's not selfish to make and take time for yourself.


Selfishness means being interested in your own welfare and personal advantage to the exclusion of regard for others.


There’s a prevalent thought (that seems to me to be especially gendered), that says that considering one’s own welfare in any way is synonymous with lacking consideration for others.


But it’s entirely possible to take your own welfare into account, and take the welfare of others into account.


The opposite of selfishness isn’t being interested in the welfare and personal advantage of others people over and above regard for yourself. The opposite of selfishness is taking everyone (including you) into consideration.


So, throw off that social conditioning. Ignore the unhelpful idea that you have to be selfless to avoid being selfish.


Squeeze more fun into your life and reconnect with important parts of yourself by following some of the suggestions below.



1. Re-frame your relationship to the things you do everyday


Savour activities you like, but that have become a chore, so that you see the fun in them again.


Forget about should and oughts e.g.


  • I ought to walk 10k steps a day because it keeps me fit

  • I ought to read a book instead of scrolling my phone to avoid blue light before bed

  • I should eat salad instead of chips because chips are bad and salad is good


nutritious salad

And reframe them:


  • I love getting out for a walk because it makes me feel connected to nature/ my environment/ the rhythm of walking helps me feel relaxed and contented.

  • Getting into bed and reading a book used to be one of my greatest pleasures, I’m going to do more of that.

  • I want to eat salad as well as chips because the salad adds variety to my diet that my body needs, and I like chips.





Everyday activities can be pleasurable but are frequently framed in moral terms. They become good or bad. Productive or unproductive.


It's easy to start thinking activities should stave off some bad: idleness, fatness, criticism. Not that you should do them because they make you feel good.


A simple reframe, and savouring the activity, can make all the difference. Reflect on the positives of how your daily activity makes you feel.


2. Five minutes of fun will impact you more than you think


If you take just five dedicated minutes in each day to enjoy something fun, you will see the benefits in your mood and motivation. This is something that my coaching clients report as having had a profound affect on how they think and feel.


playing ukulele

Any activity you choose should always be something you enjoy. And it doesn’t have to be a traditional idea of what’s “fun”. Here are some of things that my clients have had fun with in not much more than 5 minutes:






Playing the ukulele

Doing a quick sketch

Wearing an eye mask and lying down for five minutes in the middle of the working day (one for the WFH people, although I did once work with a CEO that napped under her desk every day!)

Organising a book shelf

Walking the dog

Baking a cake

Practicing ollies on their skateboard (yep, a 37 year old mother of two, and why-bloody-not!)

Having a bath

Swimming

Reading a poem

Stitching some embroidery (Ok, that was me)


3. Look for inspiration for fun activities


I don’t know about you, but I can get a bit stuck in a rut. Especially when I’m stressed.


My partner bought me a cute gift by The School of Life last week. A little deck of cards called “Everyday Adventures: Re-discover wonder and excitement”. And it has such exciting suggestions for fun stuff to do.


Much better than any google searches I’ve done.


Here’s a little example of what’s on the cards:


Visit a power station


I know, I know. But personally I am so into this one. I love industrial landscapes. And power stations have a kind of awesome magnitude.


Two of my favourite power stations are Dinorwig Electric Mountain (currently closed for tours, but if you ever get a chance to go once it re-opens, it is like being in a James Bond film).


And Battersea – no longer a power station, but an incredible building, and now home to lots of bars and restaurants.

Chimneys of Battersea Power Station

Drax (Selby, N Yorkshire) and Cruachan (between Glasgow and Oban in Scotland) Power Stations are on my wish list!


Ask a child to tell you the silliest thing about grown ups

I’m anticipating great joy from this one. I am planning on asking my little nephew, who is 5 next time I video call. He has lots of opinions on lots of subjects. I’m think his answer will be interesting.


Learn to make bread


home made real bread
I made this bread

A while ago I went on a day long bread making course in Stoke on Trent. It was run by a brilliant charity called Bread in Common.


They make, sell, and teach people to bake real bread (with flour, water and yeast), and do all sorts of useful community projects.


I met some lovely people and baked some lovely bread. If you live in Staffordshire I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was such an uplifting activity, but also really good to learn something new.






 

If you like this little taster of the adventure cards and want to get some yourself I bought them from this lovely boutique, Design 44, at Trentham Shopping Village. You can also get them direct here.


In summary, it’s not selfish to do things for yourself. Having fun reinvigorates your sense of self.


There are loads of things that you can do that don’t cost much or take long and you will feel instant benefits. Why not commit to a little fun today?


 

*Disclaimer

When writing copy the general advice is to use simple language and commonly used words. “Eschew” doesn’t really fall into that category. But I love words. There are so many of them in the English language. It’s what makes it rich and malleable and fun to use.

Looking up, and using, new words is one of the simple pleasures I love.

I remember reading this word for the first time many years ago in Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. I often remember where I first learned a word.

So, if you’ll indulge me, I’m simply having fun.

Eschew, if you haven’t come across it before, means “to deliberately avoid, abstain from”.


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