For many people, work comes before play. Many believe that to be productive, we have to put play and relaxation on the back-burner. We may trudge through the workweek and live for the weekends. When we operate in this way, work can feel like a never-ending chore. While we may meet deadlines and accomplish everything on our to-do lists, our energy and results suffer. Productivity is not only about what we get done, but how we get it done. To create sustainable productivity and better results, it’s time to start prioritizing play by:
- Taking regular play-breaks
- Discovering your play preference
- Prioritizing play
- Scheduling play into your day
- Play while working remotely
Play stimulates parts of our brain that release neurotransmitters associated with focus, attention, learning, and pleasure. Taking play-breaks throughout the workday can alter your brain chemistry for the better. Play also helps decrease cortisol, a stress hormone that can have detrimental effects on the mind and body. While it may seem inconvenient to stop what you are doing, taking breaks from important tasks to play will give you an energetic boost that will help you return to work with less stress and more focus. According to research, the magic amount of time is a 17-minute break for every 52-minutes of work.
Learn Your Play Preferences
In order to take effective breaks with play, you first have to know how you like to play. Many of us are accustomed to finding distractions during breaks rather than engaging in activities that bring us joy and give our minds a much-needed rest. People recharge and play in different ways. The 5 Play Preferences represent some of the main ways that people like to play:
- Social – being and connecting with others (i.e., happy hour, talking on the phone with friends)
- Imaginative – letting your mind wander (i.e., daydreaming, “people watching,” looking out the window)
- Physical – mobilizing your entire body (i.e., swimming, biking, surfing, working out)
- Creative – expressing creativity with media (i.e., painting, make collages, graphic design, writing)
- Object – manipulating tangible things in your world (i.e., fixing a car, knitting, cooking)
While some people have one strong play preference, others may have several. If you are unsure what your play preferences are, ask yourself this question:
If I had all the money and freedom in the world, how would I spend my time?
The answer to this question holds powerful information about how you like to play. Once you become aware of your play preferences, you can begin improving your time management skills and engaging in activities that energize you throughout the workday.
Make Play a Priority
If your work schedule doesn’t leave time for activities that bring you joy, it’s time to rethink how you’re approaching work. Play brings us joy. It boosts our positive emotions and gives us a fresh perspective. It can also help us connect with others, especially if we share the same play preferences as our co-workers, family, and friends. Taking time to play every day enhances our sense of well-being and gives us the positive mindset we need to solve complex problems and persist in the face of challenges.
Make play a priority by putting it into your daily schedule and sticking to it with the same level of commitment as any work task. Try starting your day by engaging with one of your play preferences before you dive into work.
Schedule Play Strategically
The key to using play strategically is to think in terms of personal motivation and energy management. To be effective and improve productivity at work, you need to balance tasks that drain you with activities that give you energy. Plan on engaging with a play preference in between tasks that drain you. Is there a particular time of day when your energy takes a hit? Schedule an energizing or rewarding activity during this time so you can return to work refreshed. Start thinking of play as a productivity tool rather than a reward for getting everything done, and schedule it intermittently throughout the day.
Working From Home?
If you are working from home, now is the ideal time to learn how to enhance your productivity with play. Without the confines of an office, you have more freedom and options when it comes to your schedule and how you take breaks. Take full advantage of this opportunity by allowing yourself time to recharge throughout the day, whether it’s a short bike ride or a phone call with friends. If you have children at home, figure out their play preferences, and take regular breaks to engage with them in mutually enjoyable activities. Make sure play isn’t a chore — try out different activities until you find ones that truly energize you and bring you joy.