/ Productivity

Sometimes You Just Have to Chill The Fuck Out

I never thought I'd have to physically learn how to relax. It's supposed to be something which comes naturally, right? You work hard, you do some intense activity... then you relax, unwind, and recuperate. But until I left the UK, I wasn't relaxing at all - ever - and I had no idea.

For the last few years I've been driven to do a lot of things. I had almost unlimited supplies of motivation which I used to build a business, and another one, to become a public speaker, to contribute to open source projects, to build a name for myself. It seems surreal now to think back to that mindset. Don't get me wrong, I got a lot done - which was definitely a good thing - but the very idea of time-off or a "holiday" seemed like a total waste of time to me. Even when I had a day off, I was always working on something. Looking back, I never slowed down for long enough to appreciate what I had. I was always just reaching for the next "thing". The next idea. The next purchase. The next project.

Eight months later, my outlook has changed quite a lot. I've slowed down. I still have big ambitions, but they're fueled by different motivations. I've written before about how not owning anything makes you question everything, and as you might have deduced from my post yesterday - I've been trying to justify my own goals.

I've started working on fewer things. At the moment I'm working on Travelllll.com - 1 client project - and nothing else. Sure, I still have lots of ideas for things I'd like to do. Last week in fact I had an idea for a very simple iPhone app that I really want to see happen (drop me a line if you're an iOS dev looking for a side project), but there's no rush. I actually have time to relax, unwind, and recuperate. I'm slowly discovering how to do that.

The interesting part, for me at least, is that the more I slow down - the more productive I become. When I spend the morning kiteboarding, I come off the water energised, invigorated, and focused on my tasks for the day. When I spend an evening relaxing with friends, I usually get up at 4:30 the next morning to start work - completely rested.

For the last few weeks I've been trying to decide on a new talk to give. I'm speaking at a large travel event in Colorado in 2 months called TBEX - and the more I've searched for something interesting, inspiring and relevant to talk about... the more the answer has eluded me. This morning I decided to take an extra hour in bed - not to sleep - just to relax and mull a few things over in my head. Within 20 minutes, without actually trying, I'd come up with the perfect idea for my new talk.

It feels unnatural to me not to work. Society (and genetics) have programmed me to feel guilty if I'm not doing what I'm "supposed to".

Well here's my new motto: fuck doing what I'm supposed to. I'm going to do what gets the job done. And if what it takes to do that is a lot more fun than what everyone else is doing, then so be it.

John O'Nolan

John O'Nolan

Founder at Ghost.org. Writes about open source, startup life, non-profits, and publishing platforms. Travels the world with a bag of kites.

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