in life

The Relax Project

I need it. That thing. That something to work toward. A challenge. An obstacle. A project.

Since as far back as I can remember, especially since I was old enough to have a job, I’ve been working toward something. Whether it was saving up enough allowance money to buy a toy, finding away to somehow pass a test in high-school, building a relationship with my (now) wife and getting married, or starting my own company. I’ve had a project in front of me.

We all do. We all have “life projects” – sometimes we avoid them, turn the other cheek, and say “maybe tomorrow” – for others, like me, it’s been about taking them on full speed ahead. Maybe because I don’t know any other way. Often trying to do too many things at once.

There’s a certain satisfaction in accomplishing a project you’ve been working on – be it big or small – being able to take that mental marker to draw a thick black line through an item on the to-do list is one of the best feelings ever.

I came. I saw. I conquered.

I’ve had many, many conversations with people, including my wife, who tell me to “slow down”, to relax, to take it easy and come up for air every once in a while.

This is probably the best advice anyone can give. For those who are constantly go, go, go (and this no doubt represents the majority of you reading this), I’ve got yet another project to add to your list:


We’re working with a client right now. As part of the introductory process we send a series of questions about “goals”. Typically we get responses that detail the amount of revenue the company wants to earn, the increase in web traffic they’re hoping for, etc.

But this was different. This wasn’t about dollars, it wasn’t about a bottom line, it wasn’t about the businesses’ results. Their document opened with one simple line, “I want to work less”.

I’ve seen work literally take over people’s lives. I see people on Twitter, Facebook, and in their blogs every day write about how burnt out they are at their jobs. Well, folks, life is far, far too short to be absolutely consumed with your work.

So that’s my project – and maybe after reading this, you’ll add it to your list. Take time to relax. Take time to enjoy time with your family and friends. Take a break in the day to read or listen to music. Allow yourself to mindlessly watch TV every once in a while. Leave the phone at home more often.

You define the work you do – don’t let work define you.

Work less. Live more. Starting now.

(Image c/o Rob Williams)

Add Your Voice



  1. As one of the people who has been worrying about the amount you work, and reminding you to come up for air, I TOTALLY support this project! Great advice that everyone should take to heart.

    • Love it! I’m completely with you on this one too. My relax project for today (Friday)? I’m packing up the car with a big thermos of tea, some great munchies for later, kidnapping my wife and heading to some hotsprings! Here in Idaho they are all over the place and one of the best ways to get away from the other projects I can’t seem to stop working on.

  2. Fucking brilliant.

    I like the idea of making relax an actual project, because then it does become a real goal–instead of just a sassy, foul-mouthed French prostitute screaming at you from the sidelines.


    • For someone who needs projects, it makes perfect sense to add this to my list (and push it to the top of the list). Life is good, grand, really – but I’d like to take a step back and enjoy it before it passes me by. :)

  3. Nice post! I admit I’m someone who is constantly stressed out and doing 1000 things at once. I have way too many projects going on and perhaps am way too much of an ahead planner. I’m not ready to relax at this point in my life because I have too much to accomplish and too much at stake. But maybe sometime… next year… oh who am I kidding? It’s never going to happen :S

    • Haha…I hear ya. I think you and I also understand that more work now (ideally) means less work later. That’s the goal, right? We’re young and still figuring things out, so of course it’s going to be a little (or a lot) crazy. :)

  4. LOVE it. And I’m totally with you. I’ve always had a hard time relaxing because I feel like I constantly need to be doing something. I feel guilty, like I’m letting myself down if I’m not always pushing ahead – every single minute of the day. It’s hard to shut off my brain, hard not to always be thinking of what’s next. But all of the stress, lack of sleep and the insane expectations I put on myself probably end up affecting my productivity and potential.

    So… I’m trying. It’s sort of pathetic that I actually have to schedule time to relax, but it’s a huge step for me. And prioritizing what deadlines are real or just self-inflicted is also big for me to. I’m happy that you’re committed to doing the same, sir. Well deserved. :)

    • Long time no talk/see, Sara!

      I have the same problem as you – feeling guilty when I’m NOT working, telling myself that I SHOULD be working, that I HAVE to get this done TODAY. It’s breaking that feeling and breaking that “work-all-the-time” mindset that’s challenging, but has to be done, otherwise we’ll drive ourselves nuts.

      Agreed it is kind of sad that we’re all commenting here about how we can’t relax and that it’s SUCH as challenge that I’m calling it a “project”, but, you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do. Keep hustling, but take a breath or two every now and then.

      Hope you’re doing great – by the way!

  5. I’m constantly worrying about the balance. Should I work more and ensure I meet my work goals, but miss out on time with my sweet husband and family? Or the reverse, with the attendant consequences. I’m kind of an anxious person so lists and structure make me feel better, but I wrote this quote on the whiteboard in my office, directly facing my desk:
    “There is more to life than getting things done.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

    • I am OCD with list-making. It’s actually pretty sad, really. But I’d be lost without my moleskine and my whiteboard – it’s what keeps me sane. And (just ask my wife) I write the most mundane, routine things on my to-do list (like showering – no lie) just so I can cross through it with a pen and feel accomplished.

      I think us folks who are SO busy often get caught up in it, telling ourselves that we haven’t gotten enough done – but making a list and crossing things off – looking at it at the end of the day – helps to realize that you ARE getting a lot done, probably even more than you think…

  6. Thanks for the awesome post. I’ve been giving myself time off and ‘slowing down’. As a result, it’s been helping me stay focused!

    Giving myself breathing space has been beneficial to my social life, yoga and freelance work. Thanks for sharing the smarts Matt!

  7. So really, you should pack your bags and move to France! No, in all seriousness, the French are actually very very productive (in most industries), and work hard but also appreciate life more than Americans. They can justify the 5 weeks minimum of vacation because to them, it’s unthinkable to work like a dog without a break – without decompressing. I think the French are much better at getting off the computer and getting out there and DOING things.

  8. Hahaha YES, so with you on this one. I made it a priority earlier this year in May to make sure I made time for myself and my loved ones. It definitely takes work and it definitely takes some conscious thought and planning, but it’s possible. This is coming from someone who is teaching, working with a charity, helping my friend plan a wedding, helping run a musical, volunteering backstage in theatre, while still trying to find blogging/reading/party/sleep time!

    Kudos to you for taking action on this one, Matt. Cheerio!

    • We all have a LOT on our plates, and through it all, we often lose track of what matters most, making time for ourselves and the people we love. The holidays are a great reminder of what and who really matters most – a successful career is something that will always be important to me – but taking time to actually ENJOY life has to be at the top of all our to-do lists. Cheers!

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    • Awesome! I am FORCING myself to take my own advice starting tomorrow as well. I WILL unplug and enjoy the holidays, clients and everything will get along fine without me for a couple days. Happy Thanksgiving!

  10. Love this.  In a society that’s obsessed with doing more, it’s refreshing to hear someone say DO LESS. We all need to recharge our batteries now and then. And, after all, there’s way more to life than work. A lot of people would do well to read this. 

    • Agreed. It’s a good message for all of us, and one I myself needed to read today. It’s easy to forget that stepping away and relaxing is a must, but…it’s a must. Here’s to a worry and stress free holiday break away from the stress work can bring!