In my podcast, My Monday Motivation, I shared about how Play and Work are the Inhale and Exhale of each other. Let’s go more into more detail about how play is different than work, and how to maximize our rejuvenation by shifting gears from work mode to a playful mindset.
As we approach Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. and several May holidays around the world, many people are planning their vacations. But what happens when you plan your vacation while you’re still in a fast paced work mode? If you haven’t had enough play recently, you will wind up trying to fit too many activities into your vacation. While the enthusiasm to have several mini adventures is coming from the right place, trying to make up for all those missed opportunities to play in the past will leave you even more exhausted by the end of your vacation. Where’s the rejuvenation in this scenario? Rather than “playing hard” after all your hard work, consider the benefits of slowing down to get the most out of your playtime.
Most people over-plan their vacations because they’re using the same work mindset to anticipate what will bring their fulfilling play. But play doesn’t work that way, because we have a different pace and flow when we are completely engaged in our recreation. Work mode seeks to maximize efficiency so that we can complete all the tasks on our checklist. If you try to maximize your sightseeing and schedule too many activities on your vacation, then you’re over-planning, which doesn’t allow enough space to fully get into your playful flow. By nature, play is less structured than work, so it has a greater free flow of energy. If you schedule your vacation with the same vigor as work, you choke off the flow and limit your rejuvenation potential. Staying in work mode during playtime is like eating a delicious meal way too fast, while simultaneously checking emails on your work phone. Did you even taste one bite of your food?
In my podcast, I mentioned that play is the act of doing what you want, when you want to do it. Think about your structured daily life and how freedom of choice is limited by responsibilities and expectations. Playing around comes with the thrill of following your desires and the discovery of new sensations when you try something new. To switch out of work mode, we need slow down enough to feel the ease and flow of our natural human life. Be free of clocks and deadlines as much as possible, because they add extra structure to a time that is meant to be free flowing. A true vacation will have at least a couple days where there is not an alarm clock going off.
Come back to your explorer’s mind and try something new. Stop to watch that sunset. Breathe in the air that carries the scent of some strange flower you’ve never encountered before. Be free and play like summer will never end. That’s maximum play.