What is the guilty pleasure that you have no control over during your free time? For me, it’s playing board games online. I’ve never been into video games, I honestly don’t watch Netflix very often, and I can usually pull myself off of social media pretty easily. But as soon as I think, “I could play one quick game of Sushi Go”, it’s game over for my free time. At least it used to be.
By doing My Next Thing, I started to take back control of my free time. I didn’t completely cut out online board games from my free time, nor should I. I think they are a ton of fun. But doing a new THING every month helped me realize that these THINGS leave me feeling much more fulfilled at the end of the day. Beating strangers on the internet at Ticket to Ride all night, however fun that is, makes me wish I had used my time more productively.
So while you’re doing yoga this month, don’t cut out the guilty pleasures that you crave during your free time. Instead, reflect on how you feel at the end of a day spent doing yoga as well as enjoying a guilty pleasure. I’m guessing you go to bed feeling much better about how you spent your free time. Side note. If your guilty pleasure happens to be board games, I’ll happily challenge you to a game of Catan after we both do our THING.
I’m realizing something as I continue to do My Next Thing. Being passionate is a skill that I’ve been able to develop with practice. When I started doing yoga as my first THING, I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say I was passionate about it right away though. It was kind of difficult to motivate myself to do my THING almost every day. For a while, I still craved the passionless time-wasters I was used to using to fill my free time because they were easy. This made me question whether yoga was the right THING for me. Surely if I chose the right THING, I would feel passion for it and stop filling my free time with YouTube and Instagram, right?
I’ve come to realize that passion is a skill. It's not a result of choosing the right THING. Passion is developed by choosing to do the next THING. By doing the next THING, and the next THING, and the next THING, I’m becoming a more passionate person. About every THING.
Doing yoga every day might help you become more passionate about yoga. But the routine of doing a THING every day, whether it is yoga or any of the other THINGS on this site, will develop the skill of being passionate. And I believe that is something worth pursuing.
Yesterday I had the best intentions of doing my THING after work. But during the last two hours of my workday, everything went off the rails. I went from feeling super motivated about my evening to coming home with a splitting headache. So do you know what I did? I sucked it up and did my THING anyway.
Do you believe me?
No way. That’s what some motivational-30-day-get-shredded-fake-workout person on Instagram would say. I took the day off from my THING.
Days like that are why I’m really insistent that you don’t have to do your THING every single day. Do it most days when you have free time, for sure. Like I talked about on day 14, you are building the skill of being passionate by doing your THING. That takes consistency. But on a day when you aren’t feeling at all energized by the idea of your THING, don’t be hard on yourself and accept the fact that you will take the day off and do it again tomorrow.
Something that I’ve been doing recently is writing out a schedule for my free time. At some point during my workday when I’m feeling motivated, I grab a sticky note and write something that looks like this:
5:30 pm - 6:00 pm - Relax
6:00 - 7:00 - Do my THING
7:00 - 7:30 - Read
7:30 - 8:00 - Yoga
8:00 - 9:00 - Cook and eat dinner
9:00 - 10:00 - Talk on the phone with [friend]
10:00 - 11:30 - Open (usually I read a fiction book, watch an episode of something on Netflix, and then listen to a podcast while I get ready for bed).
I’ve noticed that about 4 out of 5 nights of the week I stick to my schedule, which means I’m far more productive with my free time than I would be if I were left to my own devices. On a day that I don’t schedule my time, my free time ends up going like this:
5:30 pm - 6:00 pm - Take a nap
6:00 - 6:30 - Mindlessly scroll Instagram as I wake back up
6:30 - 7:00 - A pathetic attempt at doing my THING
7:00 - 7:30 - Clean my bathroom (why? Procrastinating doing anything productive)
7:30 - 9:00 - Cook and eat dinner, accidentally watch YouTube for an hour during/after eating
9:00 - 10:00 - Tell myself I need to do something productive, so I read off and on but mostly text friends
10:00 - 11:30 - Decide I’m just not feeling it and watch YouTube until I go to bed
The difference in my self-esteem and sense of fulfillment is so substantial after experiencing these two different types of days. Simply writing down what I want to accomplish is enough to keep me accountable during my free time. It’s a great way to make sure you do your THING and go to bed feeling accomplished every day. Give it a try and see if it helps you do the THINGS you actually want to do.
I find it amazing how taking 30 minutes to do something simple, like yoga, can transform the rest of my day. By making one decision to do my THING right away after work rather than mindlessly getting on my phone during my free time, I usually kick off a chain of decisions that are much more fulfilling than what I would have done otherwise.
I usually end up doing my thing for longer than I anticipated because once I start, I remember that I really like it. It sometimes makes me think of an old THING that I did a few months ago, so I dust that one back off and spend some time enjoying it as well. If I eventually decide to watch an episode of Money Heist at the end of the night, I even enjoy that so much more than I would have if I turned it on right away after work.
So here’s to starting your free time off on a good foot today.
I’ll keep this one short. If you feel like you’ve made a positive change in your life by doing My Next Thing, today is a great day for a mini celebration. I don’t care if this is your 10th THING or your 1st THING, I also don’t care if it’s a Monday or a Friday. Taking the time to celebrate is just as important as deciding to start your THING in the first place. After you do yoga today, I invite you to celebrate in any way you want. If it was me, I would enjoy a nice IPA and toast the fact that I’ve repurposed my free time in a way that excites me.
So do your THING and then celebrate a little. You deserve it.