One of the standard qualities of most white-collar working lives is what you get paid to do – the so-called “day job” – versus every other thing you spend doing in life, is the often sharp division between the two. There is the implication that “work” is not enjoyable whilst “play” is. Sony even called their gaming console a “play-station” all those years ago as a deliberate subversion of the idea of a “work-station” which is often the computer you have on your desk at work.
But it’s not so simple. If your paid activity – note that I carefully did not call it “work” – is the same thing you do to enjoy yourself, then the division tends to dissolve.
The actor-turned-director Ron Howard was a guest on British TV program “Top Gear” a few years ago. The general format of that segment is that the guest spends a day learning how to drive a very ordinary car as if it were a racing car around the show’s famous timing circuit. At the end of this, they do a final lap to see how fast they can do this. Then they appear in the program being variously grilled and entertained by Jeremy Clarkson’s banter before viewing their lap and what their time was. It’s great television. Being a skilled writer, Clarkson always turns his attention to finding out interesting things about the guest. With Ron Howard, he asked about his hobbies.
But Howard said he doesn’t have any. He said his work as a director was his hobby.
Imagine that! To live life making money doing something you love – so much so you struggle to believe people will pay you (sometimes handsomely) to do it! It is hard to grasp what “downtime” might mean for someone like that when that’s not me.
My downtime is filled with lots of different things, and there are many others I just do not have time for. I have movies and TV series unwatched. I have home art projects barely designed, let alone attempted. I have fiction writing that proceeds at a glacial pace. I have a “to be read” pile of books that goes back at least five years. And all that is on top of the things I actually must do to live, like my washing, grocery shopping and feeding the cat.
Even so, I still don’t plunge myself into all this frantic leisure the moment I get home from work. I need my downtime.
I’d love to get paid to read books. Or write books. Or one of any number of things I currently do not get paid to do. The problem is that it is really difficult to shift from what I am currently paid to do (program for a web-based business) to, well, anything else. And so such things remain in my “downtime”.
At least I don’t have the pressure to Get Things Done with them that I have at my dayjob.
But maybe, just maybe – that’s not really such a good thing.