How To Make Work Play?
We humans are biologically wired to avoid pain and to seek pleasure. That’s a simple unavoidable fact. Therefore, the trick is to figure out things related to work that bring you more pleasure than pain.
Will power is not a practical solution since it quickly runs out. Instead we need to learn how to cooperate with our biology rather than struggling against it. We need to figure out how to make each individual work day more satisfying and more fun in order to get biology on our side.
Play is something you want to do, not something you have to do. So, what is the path towards making work something you want to do. Each day consistently:
- Study what makes work feel like play. See some ideas on this page. Become a master at enjoying yourself while working and at being lazy but still effective.
- Focus on what’s pleasurable about work. There are always at least certain little aspects that are more fun than others. Find and focus on them at every opportunity.
- Remind yourself “why“ a particular job is beneficial and thus ultimately pleasurable in the long run. There must be a reason or presumably you wouldn’t be doing it. Beginning with the end in mind implies knowing the end benefit as well as the end specifications.
- Practice how to completely concentrate on the subject at hand, how to become completely absorbed and to switch focus at will. This has several benefits: It (1) makes you more successful at what you do because you are paying more attention, (2) teaches you how to concentrate better, (3) rests your mind from other subjects which allows you to attack them with renewed vigor later and (4) adds to your capacity to get the pleasure which naturally comes from doing something well. l.3871 If you also learn how to efficiently use only the force needed work will also become easier and you reservoirs of energy will increase.
Once you know how to make work pleasurable a switch is flicked within yourself and you go from having to work to wanting to work. For example, an exercise motto commonly used to motivate athletes is “no pain no gain.” Top athletes actually relish “good” pain during practice because they realize it moves them towards their ultimate goal of winning. They also see tough competition as an opportunity to stretch their strength, smarts and self confidence.
Another signal which indicates you are on the right path is when you start viewing short-term distractions (junk food, TV, social media, etc) as a waste of the time and energy needed to get what you want most. Being short sighted blinds you to the fact that indulging in instant gratification rather than putting in the effort only brings the future pain of wondering what if your dreams had been fulfilled and the pain of missing out on all of the things you never got to see, do, experience, create or be.
The accomplishment of overcoming challenges turns on humans. In general finishing something is a good motivator.
Curiosity also motivates. Humans like to learn and to understand things. Bill Gates is a good example of a big success whose hobby, even after hours, is learning.
Getting completely absorbed in your work is also pleasurable. Here are some of the key steps to achieve flow: choose work you love, choose an important task, make sure it’s challenging but not too hard, find your quiet peak time, clear away distractions, learn to focus on that task as long as possible, enjoy yourself, keep practicing.
Practicing meditation is a good way to help you increase your abilities to be mindful (keep your wits about you, court sense) to release distractions while you concentrate.
Baby steps is a common technique for gaining a little momentum when you are hung up. Chop big jobs into little easy time blocks and steps and finish them off one at a time. Also keep looking for any itty bitty positive aspects of your work that give you a little positive charges; a bunch of these can dramatically increase how much fun you experience in an otherwise mundane day.
Working fast can be a practical way to get things moving as well. This is especially good for writing. Rather than drag along start writing fast. Wait until later to worry about editing and formal details.
Repetition is also a tool that can help make progress faster and learning easier. Figure out what parts of a job are susceptible to repetition of good practices and what parts are unique requiring puzzle solving ability. When learning something get pleasurably involved with the subject instead of using will power; then use repetition to retain the details.
Tapping the power of success and progress helps you get a successflow moving. Maintaining momentum going over the long run is really the secret to any big accomplishment and these ideas will help you do that.
Easy Does It top
Doing the easy stuff and finding easier ways also build momentum.
Look for little things that are easy to do while still moving you in the right general direction. Chop your goals into little tasks, sometimes called baby steps, that are easy to finish. Then start racing through the simple little tasks and clean up after them as you go.
Don’t overdo it. Learn how to efficiently use only the force needed to make work easier & save energy.
Don’t strain. When work becomes irksome drop it; wait for your patience reservoir to fill up. l.2390 Mental work is somewhat like high jumping: you need a rest between your highest leaps … and tired leaps will often make you hit the bar of resistance.
Once you have a good habit you can easily just do it more or less unconsciously. So rather than focusing on working harder to reach a goal, focus first on developing habits that will get you there. Once you have established a good habit only then switch your focus to working harder and smarter. Try this indirect approach: develop habitual behaviors first, efforts second.
Using Time blocks is another indirect approach for mastering a goal. I.e., instead of focusing on a goal itself focus on scheduling a regular chunk of time to work on it. The Pomodoro Technique is a well tested approach for using a timer to break down your time or task into workable chunks. It also schedules in small breaks where you can completely relax from the task without feeling guilt.
Here are practical examples of the above ideas: To get a job first make a habit of getting and going to interviews. To master a skill like typing make a schedule practicing it for an hour/day. To master a subject make a habit of studying it for an hour/day. To become a good writer make a habit of writing something, anything, at least 15 minutes/day.
Just Do It top
Sometimes, especially for little things, forgetting the details and just doing it is the best way. Don’t get bogged down in big complicated plans.
Just do what is right in front of you without getting confused.
The headlight analogy is applicable here. I.e., once you know you are headed the right general direction then focus on the next task that shows up in front of your headlights.
Increasing your adversity quotient, sometimes described as divine indifference, is another way to increase long term success. It is described as your ability to handle all forms of adversity. A good way to start is to practice ignoring minor annoyances and other trivialities. By the way, meditation is good practice at letting go of annoying distractions.
Variety is the spice of life so start putting as much variety into your work as possible. Take regular Pomodoro breaks between periods of focus and shift tasks when you get bored. Also use curiosity to attract yourself to different aspects of work. You can use understanding it better or improving your skills as motivators.
Gamify work whenever possible. Think up the ways you can turn aspects of work into a game. This could involve keeping score, competing with others, or tuning skills.
To master something put your effort on it at every opportunity even if only during a small fifteen minute break. Begin anywhere. But be sure to make such practice a recreation. When the work becomes irksome drop it. Be careful not to burn out on the subject which is very unproductive as well as no fun. Passion for and persistence in your work is much, much more important in the long run than forcing yourself to over do it. Wait for your patience reservoir to fill up and take up something else different in the interim. l.2390.
Another indirect way to get things done is to build connections to good people and resources that will bring you closer to vicinity of your goal.
Improving your work environment so that you want to be there really helps. Use good tools. Make your space nice and neat. Eat lunch with good friends. Do anything you can to do make you want to be there working. Anything that makes you happier and more productive will provide little pushes that can help make work fun.
Repose means a state of resting after exertion or strain. Prentice Mulford emphasizes the need to play and the need to avoid over working because that reduces our effectiveness, like digging ditches would make it harder to do one’s best high jump. He points out that we can train ourselves to repose, be absorbed, relax and “rest as we work. This is the mood of mind proper for study, work, or enjoyment. These three things should mean but one — enjoyment.” l.4075. He also points out that the way to rest the brain muscle is “by turning the whole force on something else for a time.” l.3840 By training ourselves to “switch off our whole train of thought from one subject to another” l.3850 and do one act at a time we can learn how to relax and rule our minds.
Here are a couple of practical research ideas:
– Think about activities you enjoyed in the past, like basketball or weekend trips, and see if you can break out exactly which aspects of them were fun. How can you reproduce those aspects within your work day.
– While working look for things you did that were fun or especially productive. Watch yourself closely like a coach. Then experiment with your ideas to see if you can reproduce the fun.
– Watch your attitude. Do whatever it takes to change bad feelings. Your attitude and your environment provide the energy it takes to enjoy your work.