in life

When is it Okay to Settle In?

I’m a project person. What I mean by that is I always have to be and want to be working toward something. Starting a company, training for a marathon, buying a house. Personally and professionally, when I don’t have a goal in front of me, I get restless.

I don’t remember what it’s like to be comfortable. Comfortable is closely synonymous to complacency, at least in my mind, and the last thing I want to do is coast through life.

That being said, I openly admit and realize that this drive I have is extremely demanding, and can honestly be unhealthy. While it keeps me motivated, always having something looming in distance, always looking to the horizon, never allowing myself to be fully satisfied, can be incredibly stressful. 

We talk constantly about taking action. Creating. Making shit happen. Doing big things.

But today I’m wondering, when is it okay to settle in? When do you allow yourself to breathe? When do you stop working on living so you can start actually living?

On one hand, you want to do it all, to have it all, to continue on your own path of world domination where nothing and no one will hold you back.

But on the other, you need to relax. You want to enjoy time with friends and family. You want to travel. You want to be able to close the computer and put your phone down without feeling guilty. You want to waste a day playing Skyrim on Xbox without stressing about the work you didn’t get done (okay, that last one might only apply to me). 

Now more than ever, I’m realizing that in true “project-person” fashion, one of the most important projects I’ve been neglecting is allowing myself to settle in. To relax. It’s not about complacency, it’s not about comfort, it’s about living. 

Three things to consider on this “life” project:

(1) Reverse your schedule priorities: My friend Amber shared on her blog this week how she schedules in spontaneity and “play” time. We bounced a couple emails back and forth, and it’s my belief that we (collectively) have our scheduling priorities backwards.

Instead of scheduling all your meetings and work stuff first – open up your calendar, and schedule in “fun” or otherwise enjoyable/relaxing activities. Block out time for workouts. Book yourself to play Xbox. Schedule in time for writing. Whatever gives you solace, get it on your schedule. Make it a priority, and stick to it.

(2) Embrace (some) routine: There’s little things in my life, routine things, that I cherish. Maybe it’s because most of my day is so dynamic and diverse that I’m starved for some structure and routine (I’ve talked about the “freedom” myth before). Things like having coffee with my wife while watching the Today show: I sit in my comfy chair, she sits on the couch, and Cowboy (ehem, our dog) hops back and forth between us making sure he splits his lap time equally between mommy and daddy. It sounds so basic, but it’s little things like this – an hour here or an hour there, that force me to put everything else aside and be present in the moment.

We’re led to believe that “routines” are for suckers – and it’s true, if you’re stuck on the same carousel day in and day out, it’s going to get old and you’re going to hate it, but we shouldn’t be afraid to instill a little comfortable structure to our lives.

(3) Give yourself credit: Don’t be so damn hard on yourself! I make an effort to be retrospective in realizing that I’ve accomplished a lot. A whole lot. And I’m 26 years old. It’s easy to think you’re not doing enough when you’re down in the trenches of the day to day, always telling yourself you can do more, but that (negative) mentality forces you to think about what you haven’t done yet. What you “should” be doing. How you “can” be doing more.

Instead of setting expectations that are impossible to live up to – focus on the things you have accomplished and are doing, and celebrate those successes.

As important as it is to leave a legacy, don’t leave your mark as someone who accomplished everything, but forgot how to live.

(Photo credit)

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  1. I’m one of those people — a classic creative, mind you — who actually does well with a routine. Otherwise my day goes all kablooey and I get nothing done. I find I actually like it when I get up early and get ____ done, be it a workout, painting session, or just getting to work early. Since we got iPhones last summer, my wife and I have synchronized our calendars and have gotten much better about scheduling time for each other, whether it’s a Weekly Review, getting the kids to bed early so we can watch our Thursday night shows, or a simple date night. That work/life balance thing? You gotta work for it.

    • Hey Brad. Thanks for the perspective. It is a never-ending work in progress, the pursuit of that balance. And since leaving the nine to five grind and going at it on my own, I’ve very much learned to appreciate how important structure is to any day. I’ve referred to it as “constrained freedom” in that none of us really want TOTAL freedom. Total freedom would mean chaos. It would be impossible to prioritize. It would drive you insane. A little structure, a little routine, is the only way to ensure that you accomplish the things you want to get done. Cheers!

  2. I was just pondering this very question today and I am so thankful for such a simple but profound post.  ” You want to be able to close the computer and put your phone down without feeling guilty. ”  
    Amen!  Moreover, I don’t want to be a slave to my career, which is an easy thing to do as an entrepreneur.  I’ve often used this question to help guide me through my day, “What wants to happen next?”  For me, the question really helps when I find myself resistant to tasks, projects or whatever.  It’s like the question speaks to my intuitive self, my really wise self and it’s such a relief.

    • Exactly. Becoming a slave to your work is so easy, and almost inevitable to some extent, when your running your own business. I very much relate to that, and find myself in that position often right now. But, I do think it’s part of the transition. My business is still relatively young, and I accept and embrace that it takes working more now to work less later and ultimately over the long haul. Along the way, though, I need to be better about taking a breath and enjoying things a little more often. :)

  3. This is refreshing as there are constantly posts all about hustling and working so hard that you never sleep. While I agree that if you want to make big things happen, hustling is important, it is also important to take a break and have some down time. That down time recharges you, lets your mind be free, lets you appreciate the little things in life, and gives you space to breed creativity. I always have “me time” every day. Whether that is a workout (mostly) or just catching up on books I’ve been meaning to read. I’m a better person because of it. Thanks Matt!

    • Well I’m guilty of being a kick-in-the-ass type person who preaches about the value of hustle and hard work. That being said, my message here today is sorely missing from the blogosphere and in general. Like you said here, taking the time to step away always, ALWAYS, leads to you returning rejuvenated and refreshed. Sometimes the best thing you can to do enhance your productivity is to not be productive. We all need to keep that in mind, and not focus on working harder, but instead focus on working better (see my post from a couple days ago on this :)) – Cheers, Diana!

  4. I swear – your posts always seem to come at the absolute perfect times.

    I hear you 100% when you say that you get restless without a goal ahead of you. It seems like the moment I reach a point where I’ve achieved the previous goals that I’ve set for myself and have reached a place where I’m just sailing along, I instantly start looking for ways to shake it up (consciously or not).

    But, yeah, it’s not always wonderful. I’m in a place right now where I’m starting to feel the weight of some of the excess I’ve chosen to take on. It’s nice to read about others who are working through the same things on the life-balance front. You suggestions are good ones and I’ll have to give them a try!

    • I’m happy to hear this resonated with you and was timely. I know in my heart I’ll always be a project-person – and that I will always want to be working toward something. But with that, I need to set more realistic and honestly, relaxed expectations. Not always – the hustle needs to be there, and like I said, I certainly don’t want to get too comfortable and complacent – but more often than I do now, I need to be able, and be comfortable, taking a deep breath and distancing myself from the million ideas and projects constantly swirling around in my head. You’re not alone, that’s for sure. :)

  5. Hey Matt,

    I would say that you really have your s**t together for a 26 year old. When I was your age, I certainly didn’t have such a clear understanding on things – and I probably still don’t. But the one thing I do know is that time is something that none of us have enough of and can’t be manufactured. I am sure you have heard this before, but it is VERY true – the older you get, the faster time flies.

    There needs to be a balance between business and person time. Don’t listen to those that say you need to be hustling 24/7 – it makes you wonder what they are running from. Being the next millionaire isn’t what life is about, but for many ‘hustlers’ this seems to be the only thing they are focused on. Again, makes you wonder what they are running/hiding from.

    I could literally work 24 hours a day, and I already put in more time than I should. 2012 IS going to be the year when I get my business to where it needs to be so that I can take a step back and start to realize some personal goals my wife and I have. Start to take time for us and do things we want to.

    Have a great weekend!

  6. I’m like you, Matt. A project person all the way. So I’ve made relaxing a project too: I schedule it in. I feel a little guilty scheduling in, say, family phone calls, but I don’t feel guilty about the outcome, and it makes me happier. If I need to be so freaking anal-retentive, the least I can do is add “life” to my to-do list.

    • Yes. We REALLY need to get better at not feeling guilty about it. I’m doing everything I can from here on out to reverse my scheduling focus. On Sunday, I’ll look to the week ahead and schedule in workouts, happy hours, whatever…I’ll block that time off and base my work schedule around that. It takes effort, and it takes commitment to stick to those non-work-related activities, but it really is important to prioritize them – and forcing yourself to step away will leave you coming back to the grind renewed and rejuvenated!