One of the most common things I hear from my clients is this:
"I am so flat out running around trying to get the absolute must-do's done, I have absolutely zero time left for anything else. I never play"
And that's a problem. You need time to play - but you also need play to have time.
We spend a lot of time – perhaps all our adult lives – busily do-do-doing and achieving. Or semi-comatose, recovering. When that’s all there is, though, life is pretty grim. We need to play. Biologically! A leading researcher in this area, Stuart Brown, thinks the opposite of play isn’t work – it’s depression, a life without pleasure or joy. No thanks, comrade.
So what is play? It’s a bit like porn – hard to define, but you know it when you see it.
Imagine a dog ecstatically chasing a ball on a beach, kids on a trampoline, an artist absorbed in her painting. That’s play. It’s about curiosity and fun. Fully in the moment, not worrying about the past or the future.
If you think taking time to be playful will interfere with your high-achieving ways, think again.
People who don’t play tend to be more rigid. The learning, creating, strategizing parts of their brains aren’t getting any juice, and they effectively wither. They are less able to cope with the challenges of daily life – not so awesome.
On the other hand, people who are regularly playful are more creative, flexible, adaptive and happier.
So how to do it?
Remember your key to play.
Think back to what you did as a child that you really loved, that swept you away, gave you joy. According to Stuart Brown, the idea is to get back in touch with the joy we have all experienced at some point in our lives. Re-live it: see what you saw, hear what you heard and, most important, feel what you felt. That feeling is your key to play. Where can you get more of it in your life now?
Play outside work.
Schedule in time for play just as you do for anything else. It might be tennis, horse riding, painting, learning the piano, gardening, playing footie with the kids. It doesn’t matter, so long as it’s fun. And playful, right? Right? If your tennis match is a solemn fight to the death, it isn’t play.
And prioritise: when you’re with a client, you don’t constantly read emails or take calls (or if you do, we should talk…) – so treat play the same way.
Play at work.
Paradoxically, real success comes from something more than focus, drive and determination. It comes to people who love what they do – for them, work is play. Sucking the fun out of an activity can make it seem like “work”, alright – and it’s also a guaranteed way to reduce anyone’s involvement and energy. Relax, smile, and make it fun. See what happens. Try thinking of 3 specific ways you could bring playfulness to your work.
The reason you have no time to play is that you think you have no time to play. That means you are focused on getting the no-fun things done, which leaves you unable to play. Vicious, vicious cycle.
Find at least 10 minutes in your day to be playful (drop a social media check - that ought to free up the time), and see what happens!