Cooped Up Indoors Every Day? Get a Life with These 7 Tips

Working

Have you been working all day long in the office? Spending your weekday nights and weekends living vicariously through drama series? Feel like you are wasting your youth away?

Time to get a life. I was recently invited back to Kiss 92 to do a four-week series on work-life balance, which will air every Friday  starting 22 March, between 7 to 9am (Singapore time). (All four episodes have already been pre-recorded so you’ll be listening to the recorded versions when you tune in.) Work-life balance is getting much attention locally as many Singaporeans are having serious problems achieving it, and I believe it’s the case in other modernized societies as well.

If you have been spending your days behind closed doors whether because of work or because you don’t have any many friends, here are seven tips to get out there and get a life:

1. Meet-up Groups

Meetup.com Website

Meetup.com is an awesome site to find meetup groups no matter where you are from. They have groups from hiking, to vegetarian, to writing, to photography, to entrepreneurship, to parenting, to expat meetups, to zumba, to singles dating, to frisbee, to tarot and more. 99.9% of the meetups are free to join; occasionally there are one or two that requires a $5 to $10 entry fee to cover the event charge.

It’s impossible not to find a group that falls in your area of interest, but in the event that happens, you can create your own group at a an affordable cost which can be shared among the members who joined thereafter.

Meetup was how I found my first vegetarian friends actually. When I became vegetarian in 2008, I wanted to make new vegetarian friends, so I joined The Singapore Vegetarian Meetup. I became connected with a whole group of vegetarians, along with people who are not vegetarians but enjoy the vegetarian way of life.

I don’t go to the meetup anymore since I’m fully on board on the vegetarian way of life. But the meetup served its purpose because it connected me to other vegetarians at a time when I was looking for support in this new lifestyle. Today, I’m still in touch with some of the people I met there.

2. Volunteer Work

As H. Jackson Brown, Jr. said before,

Inspirational Quote: “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” ~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

More inspirational quotes on kindness at Personal Excellence Quotes

Volunteering is a great way to bring happiness to others with the opportunity to meet other like-minded, kind people in the process. In fact, it was one of the acts of kindness in the 14-Day Kindness Challenge conducted in November last year!

As I mentioned during the challenge, volunteering doesn’t have to be some grandiose act. As long as you are offering something pro bono (be it in terms of skills, knowledge, time, effort, or money) to a community/organization, you are in fact volunteering.

The funnest way to volunteer would be to volunteer in an area that intersects with your interests. For example, an animal shelter if you like animals, a retirement home if you enjoy being with old people, schools if you like kids, and so on.

Regardless of where you are at, you can always easily find volunteer opportunities through Google (search “volunteer work” and you should receive a string of relevant results). You probably already know of some non-profit organizations in your community which you can approach. Here are some extra avenues you can check out:

  • Global Volunteer Network connects international volunteers with communities in need, with a particular focus on vulnerable women and children. They have connections with communities internationally, from Africa, to Cambodia, to Nepal, to Vietnam, to Ecuador, to Peru, and more.
  • If you are in U.S.VolunteerMatch.org is a portal where you can find volunteering opportunities ranging from the environment, to education and literacy, to animal care, to children and youths, and to seniors.
  • For those in Singapore, there’s SG Cares, an equivalent of Volunteer Match which lists local volunteering opportunities.

3. Learning Forums (Workshops, Seminars, Talks, Conferences)

Is there any skill you have been meaning to learn? Why not pick it up now through learning forums like workshops, seminars, talks, and conferences? They are awesome avenues to meet new people who are more proactive, driven, and growth-oriented (like you)!

There are so many trainers giving workshops all around the world today on different topics. A simple search for ” ‘the skill you want to learn’ + workshops” will point you in the right direction.

Conferences are also worth checking out, though they are usually held once a year and are less common than workshops and seminars.  They tend to have an array of speakers and draw a varied crowd, with great networking sessions after the main events. Famous conferences would be TED and I Can Do It! which have local versions all around the world. Click on the links for more details.

4. Classes / Courses

Do you have hobbies which you’ve always wanted to pursue but put off in the back burner? Any sports you want to pick up but haven’t? How about killing the procrastination bug and signing up for classes or courses on them? Many classes only take one to two hours a week spanning two to three months, which is very manageable actually.

One of my friends in law had very poor-work life balance last year and she was constantly stressed out and unhappy. Tired of all the time she had been spending at work, she signed up for a drumming class, which was once a week, and yoga, which she went anywhere from one to three times every week. Doing so helped her to live a life outside of work, and made her much happier as a result.

A regular class on something you enjoy, whether it’s arts and craft, sports, literary, or a new language, can make a great difference in a busy work life. It prevents you from being coped up at work every week and keeps you anchored on your personal interests while pursuing your professional goals at the same time.

I’m planning to sign up for skating classes when I get back from my next world trip. Maybe end of this year or early next year—I’m leaving for South Africa in a few days’ time.) I’ve always wanted to ice skate (it’s item #106 on my bucket list!) and having formal classes is the surest way for me to learn this skill.

5. Social Parties / Events

Instead of meeting new friends one at a time, social parties or events can let you can meet 20 to 30 people at one go, making it more fun and exciting.

How can one know of such parties or events? One way is to search the internet. Usually there are parties like this everywhere, especially during popular festivals like Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I even saw an event listing on TheList.sg for St. Patrick’s Day last week, and people don’t even celebrate the event here in Singapore.

Another way is to ask around. Have you heard of the concept, “six degrees of separation“? It means everyone is separated from another person by at maximum of six steps, by way of introduction. With the internet today, it has probably been reduced to three or four degrees.

This means that you probably already know of people or people with friends who attend such parties and events, just that you don’t know about it. Connect with the more social people in your network and ask them to invite you to future events they go to.

My favorite type of parties is house parties, which are parties conducted in someone’s private space, usually his/her home. In United States, London, and Europe, house parties are very common and pretty much the way people meet new people. Even in Asia, people have house parties too, just not as commonplace (probably more adept to call them house “gatherings” than “parties” per se). I’ve been in many house parties while I was in U.S. and Europe and it was how I progressed from not having any friends there to being part of multiple social networks.

House Party

At a Halloween house party at my friend’s place last year

At the parties, you want to mingle and get to know new people, not recede into a corner. Some attendees may know of upcoming parties, where you meet even more people. Read How To Make Small Talk with *Anyone*10 Rules of a Great Conversationalist and 10 Useful Tips To Make New Friends on how to schmooze your way through a sea of strangers.

6. Toastmasters

No matter what line you are in, public speaking is an essential skill which will help you grow personally and professionally. Being a leader requires you to do much public speaking. When you are interviewing for a new job, you have to be articulate and savvy in conveying your strengths which is a part of public speaking. At work, delivering great presentations involves knowing your audience’s needs and delivering your content in a way that meets their needs, something you learn through public speaking.

Toastmasters is the place to learn how to be a better public speaker and communicator. A Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants hone their speaking skills in a no-pressure atmosphere. There are local Toastmasters clubs all around the world which you can find on the Toastmasters website (click on the location finder in the left sidebar).

(For those of you who have been to Toastmasters before, share your experience in the comments section!)

7. Networking Events

Last but not least, join networking events. 

This may not be ideal for those of you who want to get a life outside of work, but for coaches and online business owners who work at home most of the time, this is a perfect opportunity to mingle with others in the industry. I joined various networking events in the last quarter of 2012 and met hundreds of new people across different industries, in the process learning some new things and making new friends.

Me with Katrina from Vegan Burg

Me (right) and Katrina (left), the PR for Vegan Burg, a fast food vegan chain in Singapore.
I met her at a Christmas networking party at The Hub.

These networking events are not limited to entrepreneurs too—you can go even if you work in corporate and it exposes you to people in other fields.

An established business networking institute is BNI (Business Networking International) which has chapters all around the world. I’ve never attended the meetups but I heard it comprises of professionals in different industries meeting in an enclosed environment to pitch business opportunities to each other. Another established networking forum is Asia Professional Speakers – Singapore for speakers and trainers. Last but not least, Meetup.com itself has tons of networking groups you can check out.

Any tips you have to get a life? Do you have any recommendations on how to meet new people? Share in the comments section.

Images: ishane, paul-phillip

 

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  • http://www.selfstairway.com Vincent Nguyen

    Although I already do most of what is on this list, Toastmasters is something I have yet to try! I’ve heard wonderful things about them and I don’t doubt their abilities to transform someone’s public speaking skills (which is something I can improve on,) but I haven’t taken the time to attend an event yet. It is quite a drive to the nearest location, but I do have it down on my to-do list thanks to you, Celes!

    As for adding to the list, I’d have to suggest the more obvious one, sports! I LOVE sports. Over recent years, I narrowed it down and really only play Tennis with high frequency these days, but I did go bowling today with a few friends. It’s great to improve on the skills you already have as well as try new sports you’re unfamiliar with. For people looking into new sports, Ultimate Frisbee is a great, casual game if you and your friends are willing to do a bit of sprinting. If not, you may play catch with the disc!

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Vincent, great to hear that you are going to sign up for Toastmasters! :D Please let us know how it goes after you attend it. I believe another reader here (Bob) attends Toastmasters so perhaps he can share his experience.

      On the list, actually I was referring to sports as well with Avenue #4 on classes/courses! Picking up a new sport, such as wake boarding or kayaking, can be lots of fun. I enjoy Ultimate Frisbee a fair bit too. I used to co-organize a frisbee group years ago, and when I was in Amsterdam, I joined the Ultimate Frisbee meetup through Meetup.com. Lots of fun and great way to meet new people. But I have to say that it can get quite stressful for groups that are into competitive playing rather than recreational playing.

      • Bob

        Hi Celes & Vincent,

        I found the Toastmasters I used to attend was excellent (I have moved to far away from one now). There was always something pertinent to learn from every meeting – the word of the day with its synonyms, antonyms and how to use it, the various ways of performing speeches, constructively criticising them and organising and running the meetings. A great experience – good luck Vincent!

        • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

          Thanks for sharing your experience Bob! :) Ben (one of the guest columnists on PE) is also a Toastmasters himself, and he draws on much of his experience in writing the monthly guest posts here. Vincent, you can check out Ben’s latest guest post if you’re interested: http://personalexcellence.co/blog/overcome-fear-of-public-speaking/

  • http://poisecatalyst.com Cornelius

    Hey Celes,

    This is quite a comprehensive list! :D

    Just wanted to point out a specific option that would sit under your fourth point, i.e. classes/courses. For those into dancing, try salsa or tango classes. Salsa for more explosive energy and fun, tango for elegance and more subtle connection with your partner.

    For both salsa and tango their are communities almost all over the world. As you regularly meet the same people, it’s great for socializing and making friends, as well. :)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Cornel, thanks for sharing! :D You are taking salsa and tango classes now, aren’t you? :D What made you sign up for these classes and how have you found them so far?

      • http://poisecatalyst.com Cornelius

        Hey! I started with salsa four years ago :) I have always wanted to do this and after a long term relationship break, I found the time and finally got to do it.

        There is a community you become part of. Lots of new friends :) When I was living abroad for two years, this enabled me to make friends very quickly in my new country…

        I took salsa classes for 8 months only, but I have been attending salsa parties and events regularly since then.

        Tango is completely different and I have started to take classes a year and a half ago. I love it!!

        I had been dreaming about starting to dance tango for a long time, but never found the time for it. One day though, I woke-up and said to myself – “OK, this week I’m signing-up for classes, no matter what.” And I did it.

        We can always “make time” if we want to do something bad enough. :D

  • JadePenguin

    Ahh, sweet and easy university life. We have over 200 societies and clubs here in York so you’d have to be really antisocial/very depressed to be sitting home! Must be a bit more difficult to find activities outside of unis, so this list is very helpful :)

    I personally enjoy activisty activities a lot, like gardening on unused bits of land or campaigning on the streets for a cause you believe in.

    One thing I’d like to add: if there’s no motivation to go anywhere, that might be a sign of depression, loss of direction in life. I’ve found that talking to friends about it helps, as does meditation. Sometimes you may need to force yourself out and trust that wherever you’re going will be fun and make you feel better ;)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      if there’s no motivation to go anywhere, that might be a sign of depression, loss of direction in life.

      Hi Jade! You are spot on in that observation. I think when that happens, simply getting out there (even just taking a jog) for just five, ten minutes can help us regain perspective. Many times when we spend too much time indoors, it can warp our perspective of issues and magnify many problems when they are simply nothing in comparison to other things going on. I like this quote by Confucious, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

  • Bob

    Hey Celes,

    How about a nice walk in the park, nearly everyone has some sort of green space not too far away. I found many parks have facilities to play outdoor sports like tennis, football, or just walk, observe nature, people and ponder about life.
    Plenty of great tips Celes, I enjoy trying new things, it changes how I think and perceive life. I love ice skating its great fun, especially in the open air. Are you going to learn to ice skate or dry skate Celes?

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      Hey Bob, I think a walk in the park is a nice relaxation activity but I wouldn’t constitute it as “getting a life”, which is more about doing something about your life outside of staying indoors and/or working, ideally meeting new people in the process. Being in the park or even jogging and exercising in the gym by oneself is still a very inner world activity whereas I want to encourage readers to “get out there” and do something with the real world.

      • Bob

        I agree Celes

        There are some wonderful parks in London, Regent park, Hyde Park where you can meet people by doing horse riding, playing tennis or other organised activities. In the jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, you can do martial arts, tennis and there is an area which is well known for playing chess! I’m sure other capitals have similar facilities.

        • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

          Hi Bob, that sounds beautiful! I didn’t know there’s horseback riding available in the parks in London. I went to Hyde Park and Albert Park while I was there.

          Do they allow for spontaneous sign ups for those sports in the park in Paris?

          • Bob

            Hi Celes,

            Another idea for people who like an organised run with hundreds of people in parks all over the world is Parkrun they have events in Australia, Denmark, Iceland, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, UK, USA. Each week you can run in a park on an organised course with lots of people, great if you want to get fit and meet lots of new people. They have runners who set the pace as well. I found them well organised and friendly. Their website is: http://www.parkrun.com/events

            Horse riding in Hyde Park link: http://www.hydeparkstables.com/hyde-park-stables/horse-riding-in-hyde-park
            For tennis in Jardin du Luxembourg you can sign up immediately if the court is free which costs 4 Euro for 30 minutes and 8 Euro for 60 minutes.

            • Bob

              P.S. I forgot to mention Parkrun is free!

  • http://wishestobeinneverland.blogspot.com.au/ Nix

    Awesome great tips. Will definitely try out some of these. I personally find that just getting outdoors is super refreshing – even if it’s just a short walk to the local cafe. ;)

    • http://personalexcellence.co Celes

      What you said, Nix. :D When we spend too much time indoors, just getting out there can be a refreshing change, even if it’s just a walk in the park as Bob suggested.

  • http://www.vegeasian.com wanxuan

    Hi Celes, I agree that work-life balance is important. Life is too short to spend on just working and making ends meet. I am learning a new language (Italian) and I find it very intellectually stimulating. It is also a great chance to meet new friends (and possibly penpals?? haha) as well. It is interesting that I placed “learning a new language” as one of the items in my bucket list in Dec and I finally found an opportunity to learn from a native speaker in Feb. I think the bucket list also helps me to focus on work-life balance as well, instead of being caught up in day- to-day activities :) Wow I live near an ice skating rink and I have been thinking of learning ice-skating sometime in future too. Ice skaters always look so graceful, don’t they? ;) Have fun with ice skating (sometime soon)!