For most of us, working is a necessary but not sufficient part of living a meaningful life.

Regardless of what motivates you to work, if you believe in what you do, and even if you don’t, you probably want to do it well, which means dedication and sacrifice. However, over time, dedication and sacrifice without a sense of joy or will grind you down physically and mentally, and will almost certainly make life less enjoyable. If this strikes a chord for you, it may be because you are only “working” when you are working. And that is exactly the problem.

”Work,” however fulfilling or financially rewarding is fundamentally not fun. The daily treadmill of always doing what must be done can sap our ability to create fresh and innovative ideas. I believe that the best formula for business success is to make work fun by adding play to your workday. But what exactly is play?

Play is a way of experiencing and exploring the world that is fundamentally different from work. Working is doing. Playing is being. Work is focused on the future. Play is in the present.

Part of the reason that work burns us down and out over time is exactly because it is so future focused. When you spend the vast majority of your time focused on things yet to come, you are not living in the present. It trains your mind out of being where you are, which is draining.

Play is about opening up your mind to think thoughts you have never had before, imagining new horizons and experimenting with fresh ways of being. As children we play by imagining ourselves in different roles and, often times, acting them out. As adults, keeping that spirit of imagination is challenging.

You may be thinking, “I already work fourteen hour days and don’t have enough time to get anything done, how am I going to fit ‘play’ into my work life?” This is a fair question but the reality is that when you play at work you are more efficient because you spend less time spinning your wheels, corralling stray thoughts and being psychologically absent from your day. Playing at work allows you to feel more at ease, looser and more creative in our business endeavors. By combining work with play we are able to achieve amazing things. The blending of work, play and purpose are essential for getting to Your Next Big Thing and it is one of the secrets to a long, successful, and happy adult life.

There is increasing evidence of a lack of creativity in this country. I believe we need to bring it back through play and imagination one person at a time, so I have come up with some strategies to help you be more creative in your business.

Bring Back Recess!
Recess was always the best part of the school day, when we got out of the classroom and just played. It was a time when we were the most creative and inventive. It’s time to bring recess to your job. Block out ‘recess time’ on your calendar every workday just to let your imagination roam free. Use this time to let your creativity out to think about ways you can do something different with your business or career. What are the next challenges you will confront? Ponder this. Close your eyes or take a walk. The important thing is that you use the time to play in your mind and be creative.

Create a Play Space
One of the greatest concepts from childhood is the play space. Designating a room in your office, or outside the office as your space to play can make a world of difference in allowing you to dive in to the waters of your natural creativity. Having a space to play is liberating because it gives you the permission to use your imagination within a safe environment. Just spending time in this special space should get your creative juices flowing. Ideally you will want a play space that is separate from where you do your most intense work, but if this is not possible, try to change your workspace during your playtime in some way that will help you switch gears from work to play. This can be accomplished through a change in lighting, the addition of certain ‘playful’ items, such as Play Doh, crayons or clay, or the elimination of more traditional work items such as computers, schedules or even your phone.

Find a Buddy
What would play be without a play buddy? In your quest for more play in your work life try to bring some play buddies with you. It is important that these are colleagues who you can trust with your creative musings. Consider ideas or challenges, draw, or create together. Imagine how you can work together on new projects or ideas. Challenge each other to inspire even further and more elaborated ideas. You will want to put some boundaries around these play sessions so that you and she feel free to imagine and express without concern for consequences. Remember, you are just playing here and play means a time to imagine what can be without fear of doing something wrong.

The more you bring play to your work, the more fun your work will become. This will not only extend your productivity, but it will make the time that you spend working easier on your mind, body, and soul.

ben michaelis

Dr. Ben Michaelis

Dr. Ben Michaelis (@DrBenMichaelis) is a clinical psychologist, speaker, and author. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and the co-founder of the Downtown Clinicians Collective. His writing has been featured on The Huffington Post, Parents Magazine, and Psychology Today.com. He has also been featured in The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, and Redbook Magazine. His first book, Your Next Big Thing: Ten Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy, was released in December 2012.

1 Comment

  • Laura C.

    Love the theme of play in this article..really reminds me of my childhood! I also like the idea of creating a play space to promote creativity, but I am interested to see if anyone has made one and can share their own tips?

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