The Fun Will Come Out Tomorrow

February 11, 2010

Does your to-do list look like this?

  • Workout
  • Clean out guest room closet
  • Return library books
  • Take dog to vet
  • Laundry
  • Clean oven
That’s what mine often looks like. Did you notice anything particularly fun on that list? Me either.

My husband and I recently marked our 22nd anniversary. We usually plan a weekend getaway to celebrate, but have we made any hotel reservations? No. My father-in-law gave us a gift certificate to an excellent local restaurant—have we made reservations there? No.

What is wrong with us? Sure, we’re busy, but not unbelievably so. Why are we procrastinating fun?

I’ve also been putting off starting “artist dates,” an exercise recommended by Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way. (An artist date is a block of time set aside each week for an excursion you take all by yourself, to someplace that will nurture your inner artist. This might be a secondhand store, the beach, an art gallery, even a movie you go to by yourself.) I know I need down time, time to putter around, time to refill my creative well, and yet I don’t take it. Artist dates would be particularly good for me in my goal of being open in 2010, but I feel guilty about taking any more time away from my responsibilities.
Apparently, putting off fun is common for many of us. A Dec. 28, 2009 New York Times column discussed research that indicates that people put off until later pleasurable things, like visiting local landmarks, using frequent flyer points for travel or using gift cards received as presents, that could be enjoyed right now. Somehow, we always think we will have more time for enjoyment tomorrow.
Why not put at least one or two strictly pleasurable things on that daily to-do list today? Adding fun to daily life doesn’t have to cost money, and many fun things require only modest amounts of time. We could:
  • Watch the birds on the bird feeder.
  • Cuddle the dog or cat.
  • Eat some chocolate.
  • Listen to music.
  • Walk in the park.
  • Browse the books, magazines and DVDs at the library and take some home to enjoy.
  • Do a crossword puzzle.
  • Call or email a good friend.
  • Soak in a bubble bath by candlelight.
  • Look at family photos.
  • Work on a hobby—drawing, knitting, cross stitch—whatever we enjoy.
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle.
The point is that we shouldn’t be so compulsively responsible that every item on the to-do list is a chore. Our work will still be there after we take 15 minutes to read a book or sketch in a journal. Who knows? Taking time every day to inject a little pleasure may help us to move on to bigger goals, like learning to scuba dive or traveling to Italy. That’s right—our long-term goals should also include some things that are just for fun. (Repainting the house does NOT count.)

What pleasure are you postponing?

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  1. Wonderful post and a very valid point - we do procrastinate on the good stuff. Perhaps an artist date is in order!

    Except "cuddle the cat and/or dog" is on my to-do list. As staff of the aforementioned pet, it is expected. What's wrong with that picture?

  2. When I went through TAW the second time around, I forced myself to do the Artist Dates. First time through, 10 years earlier, I just couldn't seem to get up the courage to do one. Turns out I'd gotten some kind of mental payoff from being a stuck in the mud, something like, "Oh, I'm virtuous," or "Don't you dare criticize me, I'm working hard, plus my house is clean," or, "I can't possibly get down to writing the novel that is beating against my breastbone, longing to get out, because I'm busy, see?"

    Blech! Who needs it?

    Go on those artist dates, Kathy. They are fabulous once you get past that initial self-martyring tendency so many of us have. I felt ridiculous at first -- but I'm still doing them, long after the course finished. (If you want to see the Artist Date posts, they're listed on the One Swaying Being blog under category... Artist Date. You can read all about my resistance and general bad attitude. ;)

    Great post! Very well written and researched. You've given me the desire to soak in a candlelit bubblebath, which I haven't done in over a year, I think. :)

  3. Oops... sorry for the long-winded comment!

  4. Laure--glad the cuddling of pets is on the to-do list--it's such a pleasure, and great to know it's good for both pet and human!

    Meredith: I've read your posts about artist's dates! They were part of the inspiration for this post. I've been reading your Artist's Way archives, and really enjoyed your posts about artist dates. I'm so glad to hear you've been keeping them up! I'm going to start and I'll report back here. (No apologies necessary, either. I love comments, short or long!)

  5. I hope you're having fun today - its the beginning of the weekend. Happy Valentine's Day. I'm off to paint....

  6. Thanks, Claire! I painted last night (Laure's class!) and I'm off to ride my horse today. Life is good!

  7. Great post! It is so easy to put off things that make yourself happy because of items that must be done, but equally important to realize that shouldn't always be the cause. Love the idea of artists dates as well.
    Thank you for sharing.

  8. You're welcome! Hope you've put something fun on your to-do list today.