Full disclosure: I’m not an especially tech-y person, despite working for SolarWinds. So, when I chose peripheral for this challenge, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t a peripheral device, but peripheral vision.
With the end of each year comes the inevitable onslaught of “here’s why 201X was the worst year ever and everything is terrible!!!” blogs popping up on social media. Clickbait aside, we can all probably agree that 2017 has been a particularly topsy-turvy year.
And when so many issues are constantly hitting you in the face, a lot of stuff essentially gets lost in your peripheral vision. Things that are stuck in the back of your mind but just out of sight—the “yeah, let’s totally get coffee sometime!” half-promise you made to a college friend you ran into at the grocery store; the season of that one Netflix show you do actually want to watch but keep forgetting; the thing you keep telling yourself you’re going to learn but do mental gymnastics to avoid. (“I’m totally going to learn how to code,” I say to myself once about every three months, opening up Codecademy for a solid half hour before deciding that I’ll do it tomorrow. Spoiler alert: I don’t.)
The thing is, plans stuck in the peripheral aren’t necessarily obligations or things we actively want to avoid. More often than not, they’re actually things we want to do but can’t for whatever reason. I do want to catch up with old friends. I do want to finish season 2 of Stranger Things (… two months late). And I do want to learn how to code, cook, and maybe crochet (if only to complete the alliteration trifecta). So, what’s stopping us? What keeps these things stuck in the peripheral?
In my experience, when you routinely put off fun things you actually want to do, having fun almost turns into this weird, scary obligation. It’d be easy to end this with “you’re the only one stopping yourself,” but I think that trivializes how easy it is to get swamped with life. So rather than jumping to platitudes, I think it’s better to take a step back and figure out how you can take small steps to escape the scary spiral of procrastinating the “fun stuff.”
Instead of saying “Let’s get coffee sometime!” to a friend, I'm starting to say “Let’s get coffee! Are you free Saturday?” And sometimes I have to compromise with myself: “Okay, yes, you can eat cup noodles for dinner tonight, but this weekend you’re going to cook something fancy and feel totally proud of yourself for it.” It feels weird to say that I’m actively making an effort to have fun, but hey, that’s life.
This perpetual balancing act between work and play is especially relevant given the holiday season. A recent Nathan Hubbard (Ticketmaster CEO) tweet and its subsequent backlash is an interesting example of just how ingrained the idea(/expectation) of overworking yourself to the point of burnout has become. Work is important, but I think many of us undermine just how necessary it is to take a step back, breathe, and relax—even if you’re like me and have to mentally “schedule” your fun.
David Heinemeier Hansson’s response to this tweet is an especially poignant read, and I think he sums it up best here:
“What really gets my goat, though, is that [hustling] doesn’t even work. You’re not very likely to find that key insight or breakthrough idea north of the 14th hour. Creativity, progress, and impact does not yield easily or commonly to brute force.”
What things have gotten lost in your “peripheral vision” this year? And how do you tackle making time for the fun stuff in the midst of end-of-year craziness?