Rest & Play: The Keys to Productivity: Reprinted from 406 Woman Magazine p16
For the past couple weeks I have found myself searching for Hawaii vacations. The idea of a sandy beach and warm ocean water are incredibly appealing to me right now. Of course, the timing is lousy. I have a series of client days alrea dy booked. Plus it’s the holidays. So it’s one of the more expensive times of the year for travel. How did I get to this point where a vacation seems almost a requirement?
- I have been working for 27 days straight without much more than a few hours off, really.
- Between face-to-face hours with clients I have been trying to build a stronger social media presence, writing, reading and posting to ensure our new brand and website gets up and running.
- I have some extended family issues that demand attention and connection.
- My office is at home. So it is easy to work at night and often without much of a break.
I don’t think this schedule is uncommon for a small business owner. However, I also don’t think it’s healthy or productive.
So what to do? Hawaii really isn’t the solution. No, what’s needed is counter intuitive. Instead of working more, sleeping less and soldiering on, what I really need is to interrupt my work on a day-to-day basis and build in REST & PLAY. Yes, that’s right – two words that are rarely used in business, but are essential for success: REST & PLAY.
Let’s start with REST. A great deal of study has been done on elite athletes. One interesting study involved tennis players and how they utilized the breaks between games. The best results came from those who totally shut down during their breaks. No coaching, no music, no mental replays – just stillness, quiet and resting.
Another data point involved world leaders such as Churchill and Kennedy, both of whom were known for taking ten-minute naps throughout the day. It seems that after 90 minutes of mental concentration our abilities diminish quickly unless we take a break. Ten minutes is really all we need. Take a nap. Take a short walk outside. But make it a clear break.
This is not easy. I know I often want to plow through and not take an actual break until the work is done. It was helpful to learn that elite athletes and world leaders take naps and breaks. Maybe I could as well.
PLAY – that comes a bit harder. However, this may even be more important.
It’s easy to think of play as something children do, but there is so much more that play has to offer. There’s an actual National Institute of Play, who’s founder, Dr. Stuart Brown has been conducting years of research that shows the importance of play in terms of transformation, creativity, problem-solving and dealing with power differentials.
Stuart Brown’s TED Talk on play included an amazing clip involving a small husky dog and big hungry polar bear. The husky was certain to be the polar bear’s lunch! Instead, the husky invited the bear to play. A simple play bow invite from a small female husky to a predatory big polar bear resulted in a new storyline for the husky. Instead of a fight to the death the animals played, which ended in cuddles. Though the research isn’t as established for us humans, I have little doubt that a sincere invitation to play could do more to bridge differences than any other usual intervention.
Why? Because play lights up all parts of the brain. We think more creativity, remember more and develop an emotional regulation that would otherwise not occur.
So what is play? Any type of activity that is unstructured and without a defined purpose is one definition. Play can be social. It can be imaginative. It can involve objects or movement. The key is unstructured and without a specific purpose.
Something as simple as a 30 second dance can be play, totally lighting up the brain. Doesn’t that sound much more productive than plowing through?
Bottom-line: Introducing regular interruptions for short breaks and playful moments will do much more for your business than hours of concentrated effort that later result in dreams of an Hawaiian vacation. Plus, if I am more productive, well, that vacation might become a reality not a requirement. Doesn’t that sound like much more fun?