The Importance of Play at Work

Have you ever wondered why someone can spend 10-12 hours a day working and not even realize it? And then you look at yourself and how miserable you are as each second passes by on the clock at your 8 to 5 job. Well, it’s all about your outlook on work itself.

The person who eagerly gets up and looks forward to work, who gets lost in the process and becomes the process, are those who make work a game. It doesn’t mean that they want to lose, but they make it fun in order to win. It’s another obstacle to overcome. Think of the video games that you have played, such as The Legend of Zelda games. In those games, you have to beat the next dungeon in order to make more progress in the game. To do that, there is usually a puzzle to solve, involving a new tool to use in order to solve those puzzles.

That’s how people who enjoy work view their jobs. It’s a game and they want to progress to the next level. Dale Carnigie, author of How to Win Friends and Influence People clearly articulate the importance of work being fun in his book. Though he wrote this book years before video games came out, he understood clearly the importance of a happy workforce and how that is directly linked to productivity. If your workers are happy, they will not only work better together, they will produce higher caliber work that is of a quality outmatched from those who are miserable at their jobs.

What are some suggestions to switch your mindset from losing time in the hourglass to earn a paycheck to be paid to have fun and create new things? Having a video gaming background, what worked for me five years ago was viewing the design of catalog spreads as a game of Tetris. I had to figure out how to maximize the space for showing the products, their titles, images, price, code and description in a way that still looked elegant. I would push myself to make these pages look good and also complete them within a certain time frame. That process became meditative for me (as designing spread after spread does), ingraining into my work ethic. Now, whenever I work on a project, I view it as a game, a game I want to win while maximizing and optimizing time, resources, etc.

What if you don’t have a video gamer’s background? How about sports? If you ever were into sports, the same principles of play can be applied to the work process as well. You have to train, have fun and work hard to win, many times with repetition in training, recovering from setbacks and overcoming obstacles. It’s the same.

What if I try these techniques and they don’t work? I’m still miserable at my job.

If you try out these techniques and you still don’t look forward to work, you have to ask yourself difficult questions. Why are you not happy? Is it the choice of your career? Is it a bad boss or supervisor? Is it the location or pay? These are all important questions that you should ask and honestly answer for yourself. If you said yes to any of those questions, you should figure out what would make you happy and go for that. Change can be scary, but it usually works out for the best if you are honest with yourself.

Another thing to look at is your behavior. Most of the time we are our own worst enemies and it’s good to check in with yourself before making a rash decision. I recommend people do a deep dive check in every six months to see where they are at and where they need to go.

How have you made work fun? Share below.

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