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Why So Serious? Being Playful Is the New Work Ethic Now

Why So Serious? Being Playful Is the New Work Ethic Now

All our lives, we’ve been asked to grow up and get serious. Beginning with our parents and teachers, and then moving on to our bosses, many of us have often heard this homily, “it’s time you got serious about your life”. But what if this very seriousness that leads to lack in playfulness in culling our creativity and productivity, and in a way holding us back? The work hard play hard concept is actually proving to be true.

The 4 Types of Playfulness in Adults

René Proyer, PhD belonging to the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, has spent the last decade and a little more, in studying playfulness and its benefits in adults. In a study, Proyer has identified four different kinds of playfulness in adults:[1]

  • Other-directed playfulness: Playing around with friends, family, and coworkers, which include kidding and playing pranks.
  • Light-hearted playfulness: Regarding many aspects of life as a game and living with a rather carefree attitude.
  • Intellectual playfulness: Playing with different thoughts and ideas, sort of like playacting in the head.
  • Whimsical playfulness: Interested in strange or unusual aspects of life, noticing small day-to-day occurrences like Ramanujan discovering the Hardy-Ramanujan number through a taxi he often rode in London.[2]

Why You Need Other-Directed Playfulness and Intellectual Playfulness at Work

When it comes to a work environment, the first and third of these playfulness type are most significant.

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Other-directed playfulness means that you as a person keep kidding around and making jokes at office – in a way making yourself and people laugh. This wit of yours not only reduces your stress and makes the life of the office, or even a party, but also makes the workplace a better place to be at for as they say, laughter is indeed the best medicine.[3]

The other important playfulness type at work is intellectual playfulness. These are people with vivid imaginations who can playact situations in their heads and basically make work interesting and less boring. These people turn their work into a game. And by being creative and competitive, they can basically achieve a lot more than the average Joe who simply slogs away at his desk, thinking of work as an important chore. Often outspoken, these are the people who considered being the out-of-the-box thinkers, for they can imagine different solutions to the same problem with ease, making them rather valued employees. Not to say that they aren’t hard-working, rather they follow a work hard play hard kind of lifestyle.[4]

Why Being Playful Can Boost Your Productivity

“Enlightened” companies like Linkedin or Google have dream workplaces where employees can play video games, foosball or even play beach volleyball at the company HQs.[5]. However, these companies are few and far between, though all companies should realize that the best employees are the ones who work hard play hard!

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  • Playfulness makes work happen faster: When you indulge in gamifying your work, or just make work seem more creative – it seems less boring – and work that is not boring can be completed much faster that a chore that makes you nod off.
  • Playfulness leads to creative thinking: If you can view the same problem from one or ten fresh perspectives, you are likely to reach a solution much faster.
  • Playfulness lowers stress: An office filled with laughing and smiling employees who are allowed to kid with each other and maybe even compete with each other in various games are likely to be low on stress and high on productivity.
  • Playfulness makes for a motivated work force: Employees who are allowed to work hard play hard and not chained to their desk are motivated to do more on an everyday basis for they are happy, satisfied people willing to give all they have to excel at their jobs.
  • In totality, playfulness boosts productivity: If you have a workforce that is happy, not stressed, creative thinkers and motivated – you have a super productive workforce indeed. [6]

5 Ways to Let Playfulness Boost Your Productivity

Now that we’ve extolled the virtues of being playful, let’s talk about how you can incorporate playfulness into your workplace and boost your productivity, keeping in mind that playfulness can never ever equate to hurtfulness. Making fun of others, playing rude and OTT pranks is not what playfulness is about – it’s simply a state of being where you laugh, make others laugh and unleash that creative bent of mind that was hiding in every day’s mundane appearance.

Recapture that excitement

Remember the first day of work? That excitement you felt? Try and get it back – be the same excited and enthused person you were. This will motivate you to do better at work. And excitement is infectious – it rubs of. As does happiness.

Interact with your colleagues at work

You may be witty in your head and have a repartee that could leave them rolling on the floor – but for you to be truly playful, you need to go out and interact with other people. Keeping to yourself or not having the confidence can be a killer – so take a deep breath and start with simply smiling and greeting those you meet. Give them a pat on their back and give credit when its due and slowly you can unleash that comedian hiding underneath your reserved exterior. Share a joke or a riddle, an anecdote that makes you the fall guy and let those smiles and giggles escape those usually pursed lips. This makes you appear human, will usually make people see you in a positive light and make you a popular and nice person to be around, which also means that people will be willing to lend you a helping hand.

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Get to know your colleagues out of work too

We spend so much time at work, that it might as well be our second home. So colleagues often become part of our circle of friends as well. Get to know them better by inviting them over for a game, a drink or dinner, or maybe even a movie or short trip. Be fun and play a fun host – let down that proverbial hair and have a good time. Make a joke, a few wisecracks, and when the joke is on you – claim it![7]. Once you get to know your colleagues on a personal level, you will be able to connect with them better at work as well.

Look at a problem with a creative eye

When faced with a challenge, problem or obstacle at work – don’t approach it like you always do. Instead, think of it like the way you used to solve problems as a child – your approach may have been head on, or breaking the problem into small solvable bits. Don’t be adult about it, be as childish as you like – and you will end up finding a creative, if off the beaten track solution.

Give in to that imp

Sometimes a crummy day deserved a boot to the door, or a few frustrated jumps on spot and a devil of a boss deserved that stuck out tongue. Make sure the coast is clear and give in to that temptation – you’ll feel tons better in a bit. And if a colleague catches you in the act, a wink and a smile will make his day too. Smiling will increase your productivity.

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Finally, look at how kids play – no one wins or loses. So even if you invite a few friends over, keep any agendas out of it. Enjoy and be in the moment and just exist in calm, serene and hilarious waters for a while.[8]

Reference

[1] Science Direct: Proyer Study
[2] Wikipedia: 1729
[3] Help Guide: Laughter is the Best Medicine
[4] Psy Wb: The Virtuousness of Adult Playfulness
[5] Fox News: Work Hard Play Harder
[6] Reader’s Digest: Playful Productivity
[7] Psychology Today: The 7 Habits of Highly Playful People
[8] Tiny Buddha: 10 Ways To Make Your Life More Playful

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Last Updated on October 22, 2019

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

How to Focus and Concentrate Better to Boost Productivity

We live in a world of massive distraction. No matter where you are today, there is always going to be distractions. Your colleagues talking about their latest date, notification messages popping up on your screens, and not just your mobile phone screens. And even if you try to find a quiet place, there will always be someone with a mobile device that is beeping and chirping.

With all these distractions, it is incredibly difficult to concentrate on anything for very long. Something will distract you and that means you will find it very difficult to focus on anything.

So how to focus and concentrate better? How to focus better and produce work that lifts us and takes us closer towards achieving our outcomes?

1. Get Used to Turning off Your Devices

Yes, I know this one is hard for most people. We believe our devices are so vital to our lives that the thought of turning them off makes us feel insecure. The reality is they are not so vital and the world is not going to end within the next thirty minutes.

So turn them off. Your battery will thank you for it. More importantly though is when you are free from your mobile distraction addiction, you will begin to concentrate more on what needs to get done.

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You do not need to do this for very long. You could set a thirty-minute time frame for being completely mobile free. Let’s say you have an important piece of work to complete by lunchtime today. Turn off your mobile device between 10 am and 11 am and see what happens.

If you have never done this before, you will feel very uncomfortable at first. Your brain will be fighting you. It will be telling you all sorts of horror stories such as a meteorite is about to hit earth, or your boss is very angry and is trying to contact you. None of these things is true, but your brain is going to fight you. Prepare yourself for the fight.

Over time, as you do this more frequently, you will soon begin to find your brain fights you less and less. When you do turn on your device after your period of focused work and discover that the world did not end, you have not lost an important customer and all you have are a few email newsletters, a confirmation of an online order you made earlier and a text message from your mum asking you to call about dinner this weekend, you will start to feel more comfortable turning things off.

2. Create a Playlist in Your Favourite Music Streaming App

Many of us listen to music using some form of music streaming service, and it is very easy to create our own playlists of songs. This means we can create playlists for specific purposes.

Many years ago, when I was just starting to drive, there was a trend selling driving compilation tapes and CDs. The songs on these tapes and CDs were uplifting driving music songs. Songs such as C W McCall’s Convoy theme and the Allman Brothers Band’s, Jessica. They were great songs to drive to and helped to keep us awake and focused while we were driving.

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Today, we can create playlists to help us to focus on our work. Choose non-vocal music that has a low tempo. Music from artists such as Ben Böhmer, Ilan Bluestone or Andrew Bayer has the perfect tempo.

Whenever you want to go into deep, focused work, listen to that playlist. What happens is your brain soon associates when you listen to the playlist you created with focused work and it’s time to concentrate on what it is you want to do.

3. Have a Place to Go to When You Need to Concentrate

If you eat, surf online and read at your desk, you will find your desk a very distracting place to do your work. One way to get your brain to understand it is focused work time is, to use the same place each time for just focused work.

This could be a quiet place in your office, or it could be a special coffee shop you use specifically for focused work. Again, what you are doing is associating an environment with focus.

Just as with having a playlist to listen to when you want to concentrate, having a physical place that accomplishes the same thing will also put you in the right frame of mind to be more focused.

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When you do find the right place to do your focused work, then only do focused work there. Never surf, never do any online shopping. Just do your work and then leave. You want to be training your brain to associate focused work with that environment and nothing else.

If you need to make a phone call, respond to an email or message, then go outside and do it. From now on, this place is your special working place and that is all you use it for.

Every morning, I do fifteens minutes of meditation. Each time, I sit down to do my meditation, I use the same music playlist and the same place. As soon as I put my earphones in and sit down in this place, my mind immediately knows it is meditation time and I become relaxed and focused almost immediately. I have trained my brain over a few months to associate a sound and a place with relaxed, thoughtful meditation. It works.

4. Get up and Move

We humans have a limited attention span. How long you can stay focused for depends on your own personal makeup. It can range from between twenty minutes to around two hours. With practice, you can stay focused for longer, but it takes time and it takes a lot of practice.

When you do find yourself being unable to concentrate any longer, get up from where you are and move. Go for a walk, move around and get some air. Do something completely different from what you were doing when you were concentrating.

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If you were writing a report in front of a screen, get away from your screens and look out the window and appreciate the view. Take a walk in the local park, or just walk around your office. You need to give your brain completely different stimuli.

Your brain is like a muscle. There is only so much it can do before it fatigues. If you are doing some focused work in Photoshop and then switch to surfing the internet, you are not giving your brain any rest. You are still using many of the same parts of your brain.

It’s like doing fifty pushups and then immediately trying to do bench presses. Although you are doing a different exercise, you are still exercising your chest. What you need to be doing to build up superior levels of concentrated focus is, in a sense, do fifty pushups and then a session of squats. Now you are exercising your chest and then your legs. Two completely different exercises.

Do the same with your brain. Do focused visual work and then do some form of movement with a different type of work. Focused visual work followed by a discussion with a colleague about another unrelated piece of work, for example.

The Bottom Line

It is not difficult to train your brain to become better at concentrating and focusing, but you do need to exercise deliberate practice. You need to develop the intention to focus and be very strict with yourself.

Set time aside in your calendar and make sure you tell your colleagues that you will be ‘off the grid’ for a couple of hours. With practice and a little time, you will soon find yourself being able to resist temptations and focus better.

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Featured photo credit: Wenni Zhou via unsplash.com

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