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I’m Not Good at Fun

posted Feb 12, 2014, 7:01 PM by Christopher Ellison

For the past couple of years, I’ve been actively trying to better myself.  For me, this means taking a hard look at the habits I don’t like in myself and then developing a plan to try to break those habits through sheer repetition.  I was inspired to do this by a few things that all hit me around the same time - Timothy Ferris’s The 4 Hour Body, Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way, and maybe just some kind of general mid-life crisis.  Of course, the usual suspects were present on the list -- my health, relationships with my family and friends, career goals.  But through all of that, there was a theme that I kept coming back to but couldn't quite put my finger on.  Recently, I was finally able to put it into words:  I’m not really all that good at having fun.

As my wife would happily tell you, I'm something of a worrier by nature. I spend a great deal of my time up in my head and have difficulty getting into the moment. Because of that, I always have difficulty spending time on "fun things" that aren't productive. I tend to worry that I'm not working on something at any given moment, or I just get trapped in a cycle of worry about what I should be doing at the moment. I should be studying. I should be writing. I should be cleaning something up or working on the house. Often, I find myself just spinning on those problems ineffectively, thinking "I need to do that tomorrow" or "I'd better not forget to finish that project."

For the past year, I've been working on my worry-wart tendencies. I've been forcing myself to immediately write down a reminder for anything I feel I might forget, either in a todo app or a notebook I carry around. I then make myself shelve that thought and move back into the moment. Of course, having the smartphone always handy just gives me the option of other ways out of staying in the moment, but I've also been forcing myself to keep the phone in my pocket in public unless I'm explicitly making a note or something similar. To make sure I don't feel quite so rushed and pressured about everything, I've also been blocking out time on my calendar essentially for "worrying" -- e.g., during this hour, I'll only work on problems I've written down, and I'll either schedule time to do them or just get them done if they're small.

These techniques seem to have helped me focus my energies more productively and worry a little less. I haven't yet asked, but I'm hoping my wife would agree.