Too Busy for Fun

Ali and I got invited to go bouldering with our friends Nate and Chris today. I like Nate, I like Chris, and I like bouldering, but I almost turned them down.

Not because I wasn’t up to it, but because I had “too much to do”.

I’m Too Busy for Fun

This Wednesday, I fly to Miami. (My Christmas gift to Ali is a week in warmer weather, though the weather report says we may be headed directly into a thunderstorm.)

No later than Friday, I’m on the hook for two different logos, a home page design, and two front end builds, plus a bunch of maintenance tasks and revisions on in-progress designs.

And somewhere in between all that I still have to do the general day-to-day work stuff.

It’s not exactly an easy week.

Knowing this, my instinct is to go Full Metal Hermit and decline any and all social invitations, opting instead for sixteen-hour coding binges fueled by espresso and pizza delivery.

Just crank until it’s done, right?

Rush, Binge, Repeat

Two years ago, that’s exactly what I would have done. I would have buried myself in my todo list — at the expense of my physical and emotional health — for the sake of my getting everything on my list knocked out.

The list would get done, but I’d be burned out, and I’d spend a week recovering from the marathon. Meanwhile, my todo list would keep growing, and I’d find myself fully recovered just in time for the next marathon.

Something was broken.

Less Time to Work Inspires Higher-Quality Work

In the aftermath of one of these binges, I made the decision to try something different the next time: instead of cutting off my social life, I’d accept every invitation1 and try to actually enjoy my life.

So I started going to happy hours, and watching football games, and lots of other things that were fun for me.

The weird part, though, was that I wasn’t falling behind. In fact, I was getting more done.

All Work and No Play

I haven’t officially measured this, but I think the reasons being more social led me to get more done are twofold:

  1. There was a finite window of time in which I could get work done, which prevented me from screwing around pretending to work
  2. I was taking breaks, which prevented the burnout that work binges would cause

If It’s Important, Make Time

Jason Lengstorf rock climbing at the Circuit Bouldering Gym in Portland, OR.

I put on a tough act, but I'm only about 10 inches off the ground in this photo.Credit:Alison Porter

So today, I went bouldering. I had breakfast with my friends afterward. And you know what? I’ll still get my list finished.

I’m even hopeful that, with my upcoming No Distractions Experiment on Tuesday, I might actually catch up for one fleeting, glorious afternoon.

Building a work-life balance has helped me strengthen my social life and boosted my productivity, but if I hadn’t questioned my instinct, I might still be lonely and burned out.

How’s your work:life balance? Let me know on the popular social networking site known as Bookface.2


  1. Within reason. If I had two or three invitations on the same day, I would sometimes pass.
  2. Quote lifted without a hint of shame from The Office.

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