Building A Guide For Daily Enjoyment
One step at a time.
From Burning Out To Doing Nothing
About a year ago, our team noticed burnout affecting each of us personally.
We were experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety — and we began looking for ways to bring more enjoyment and fulfillment into our lives outside of work.
That pursuit led us to the work of Jenny Odell.
In her book, “How to do Nothing,” Odell writes, “In a world where our value is determined by our productivity, many of us find our every last minute captured, optimized, or appropriated as a financial resource by the technologies we use daily.”
For Odell, our attention is the currency that powers the information economy. Her insights offer a chance to redirect our attention towards a life that’s more intentional and rewarding.
“A real withdrawal of attention happens first and foremost in the mind. What is needed, then, is not a ‘once-and-for-all’ type of quitting but an ongoing training: the ability not just to withdraw attention, but to invest it somewhere else.”
In combination with the work of other thinkers, Odell’s work helped inform our approach when creating Pattern. We found that the writers who had the biggest impact on our daily lives were the ones who could guide us with thoughtful, practical, and actionable advice.
So we set out to offer our own and create Pattern’s Guide to Daily Enjoyment.
A National Conversation
Today, mental health is top of mind. 55% of Americans felt stressed about their lives, a record high for this country. Over 50% of Americans feel consistently exhausted because of work, and last year, American adults reported being 39% more anxious than a year ago.
Anxiety, stress, and exhaustion reached a fever pitch when in May of this year, WHO announced that “Burn-out” is now included in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) as an occupational phenomenon.
WHO wrote, “Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.”
As a team, we continued to learn about the challenges and impact of burnout from WHO and others, but we hadn’t found many sustainable solutions to combat our personal feelings of stress and exhaustion.
Creating A Guide To Daily Enjoyment
We opened a dialogue across our team and started to compile a list of things that were simple enough to try on a daily basis. Taking a walk. Stretching. Trying to focus on one thing at a time. Spending time with a familiar face, just talking.
They weren’t one-stop, quick fixes to mental health, but we felt they could represent a step in the right direction.
We shared, discussed, and tried each step internally, attempting to keep the list simple, accessible, and open-ended enough to allow for personal interpretation.
Here are our first 10 steps along with some of the inspiration, dialogue, and challenges that helped shape them:
1. Begin the day by making your bed.
We see home as the counterpoint to a busy world. It should feel like your sanctuary. By investing a little energy before you leave in the morning, you can make coming back to it feel even better.
“If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another.” — William Harry McRaven, retired United States Navy admiral
“Start everyday by making your bed” is my favorite step. It’s extremely easy but leads to meaningful habit formation. Coming home to a clean space is critical for my sanity after a long day at work. It’s an instant mood lifter to come home to a space that actually feels like my home rather than a crash pad.” — Ali, Equal Parts Team
2. Each morning, do something before checking your phone.
When you wake up, try to engage with an activity before your phone. This helps you harness the clear, calm headspace that can come with the start of the day.
“The urge to check Twitter or refresh Reddit becomes a nervous twitch that shatters uninterrupted time into shards too small to support the presence necessary for an intentional life.” — Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism
“These steps have helped me feel genuinely present across my day. I’ve noticed myself feeling a little more in control, mentally and emotionally, because they allow me to “check in” with myself during times where I’d usually be on auto pilot. These check ins put control and decisions back in my hands which helps me consciously lead a more enjoyable daily life.” — Henny, Pattern Team
3. Try to get fresh air during the day.
A little time outside goes a long way. Like a nature snack. There’s new evidence that time outdoors has a profound effect on our well-being.
“Indoors, we tend to use only two senses, our eyes and our ears. Outside is where we can smell the flowers, taste the fresh air, look at the changing colors of the trees, hear the birds singing and feel the breeze on our skin. And when we open up our senses, we begin to connect to the natural world.” — Qing Li, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness
“I think small adjustments in your everyday life can lead to large changes but what’s the best about these steps is that they are small and achievable. The most important to me is making sure to get outside each day. We aren’t meant to spend all-day indoors.” — Marie, Pattern Team
4. Do one thing at a time.
Multitasking is really jumping back and forth between two activities, which means you can’t think deeply about either one. When you focus on one thing at a time, you can be more effective. And when the work is done for the day, it’s best to leave it at work.
“The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” — Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
“I think it’s challenging to just focus on one thing at a time because there’s so much going on and we’re trying to be as productive as possible at any given moment. This makes it difficult to let your mind wander, to put down the phone, do one thing at a time, etc. Which then can make it difficult to let your mind rest at night.” — Kathryn, Pattern Team
5. Let your mind wander.
Our culture tends to look at doing nothing, or anything without a measurable output, in a negative light. We’ve learned how important time to do nothing is for clearing space to recharge and relax. Try reading for pleasure, spending time with your pet, or taking a walk in the park.
“[In] a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity…doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance.” — Jenny Odell, How to do Nothing
“It’s difficult to shake the “always-on” nature of work at times — with the slacks and texts and constant emails — which forces you to optimize your time in order to survive. When you’re in an optimizer mindset, it’s a lot harder to reach the stillness needed to take steps like embrace mediocrity, let your mind wander, take control of your leisure time, and spending time with friends and family.” — Lexi, Equal Parts Team
6. Take control of leisure time.
Cooking, exercising, painting, or whatever you enjoy can create space between your work and home. This helps ensure that you don’t carry any stress from work around with you.
“No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.” — Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
“I think doing something with my hands or my body makes me happy. Going for a walk, baking a bread, hanging out with friends. Something that feels active.” — Stine, Pattern Team
7. Embrace mediocrity.
Too often, we let perfection get in the way of enjoyment. Remember that not everything is a performance. It’s healthy to let yourself feel like a beginner and do things you merely, but truly, enjoy.
“We seem to have forgotten the importance of doing things solely because we enjoy them.” — Tim Wu, In Praise of Mediocrity, NYT
“It’s funny. This one has definitely taken the most heat, but I think it’s the most important since it’s so difficult. I often fall into the trap of thinking everything in life is a performance. We don’t realize that’s a relatively new phenomenon that can get in the way of enjoying life. I’ve found that level one on this journey is realizing you should look at your pursuits as ways to grow rather than perform (thanks Carol Dweck). Level two is doing them simply because you enjoy them.” — Alex, Pattern Team
8. Spend time with friends and loved ones.
Even if you can’t meet face to face, giving someone you care about a call and hearing their voice can help refresh your perspective.
“We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.” — Dan Gilbert, Harvard University
“Spending time with friends and loved ones helps maintain balance and perspective. So much personal growth and equilibrium comes from investing in these relationships and being in those moments.” — Isabelle, Pattern Team
9. Wind down before bed.
Create a ritual for yourself, whether it’s tea, reading, or listening to music. It’s important to have something to do while you avoid the blue light from screens for an hour or two before you go to sleep.
“Using TVs, tablets, smartphones, laptops, or other electronic devices before bed delays your body’s internal clock (a.k.a., your circadian rhythm), suppresses the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, and makes it more difficult to fall asleep. This is largely due to the short-wavelength, artificial blue light that’s emitted by these devices. The more electronic devices that a person uses in the evening, the harder it is to fall asleep or stay asleep.” — National Sleep Foundation
“[This is] the hardest habit to break. I know I can do it… and I do it sometimes. I love reading at night but after a long day I often prefer to watch a tv show, it’s a treat.” — Stine, Pattern Team
10. Get a good night’s rest.
Sleep is the foundation of health and well-being. It helps you respond to stress, strengthens your immune system, and it helps you live longer. Eight hours is best, but try to get more than seven.
“Getting the recommended seven to eight hours each night can improve concentration, sharpen planning and memory skills and maintain the fat-burning systems that regulate our weight. If every one of us slept as much as we’re supposed to, we’d all be lighter, less prone to developing Type 2 diabetes and most likely better equipped to battle depression and anxiety. We might even lower our risk of Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis and cancer.”
— The Power of Sleep, TIME
“Sleep is the basis of being present and being able to enjoy the next day.”
— Nick, Pattern Team
“All of these steps are based on the idea of clearing or grounding in space, whether it be mental or physical, and it’s a nice reminder for myself to take up the room I need to enjoy my life.” — Saba, Pattern Team
In August, we released a 10 step ‘Guide to Daily Enjoyment’ online, and on our website. In our company’s short history, the Guide has become our most engaged with, shared, saved, and read piece of content. Hundreds of readers have written in to us sharing their personal challenges, and accomplishments, around trying to be more present, protecting their personal time, and fending off unwanted stress.
As a team, we‘re trying our best to live Our Guide by focusing on one step each week and supporting each other along the way. We’re learning as we go and thankful for the input from so many thoughtful readers. As we continue the dialogue on burnout, attention, and enjoyment, we’ll continue to evolve the guide and continue to build a conversation with our community.
These 10 steps are just the first step.