Play as a Strategy

Friends Having Fun

Last night, I spent the evening at Summerfest, one of the largest and longest running music festivals, on the shore of Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was an ideal mix of summer weather (cool breeze, clear skies, setting sun), amazing music (Brandi Carlie, Paul Simon, The Revivalists), great company (old friends), and local cuisine (beer, brats, and custard).

We often hear about ‘work-life’ balance. One of the main goals of this balance is to find more time for enjoyable activities. A healthy life has a stable work/play structure where both are part of a feedback cycle. If used correctly, play is a great strategy to be productive.

Imagine if some musical piece had no empty spaces, no breaks, no rests…and was just one continuous solitary tone for 10 minutes. Would that be enjoyable? Wonderful music is dependent on the spaces between the notes, they have a symbiotic relationship. Likewise, effective work can be increased with concentrated play.

Little kids spend most of their waking hours playing. This has led to some people to believe a false dichotomy where ‘kids play, adults work.’ I’ve talked to a few people who believe that almost all ‘play time’ is wasted time. Although the percentage of daily play is certainly higher for children, play is an essential part of human life at all ages. It is part of our mental and physical maintenance schedule! Without play, even the most productive people will eventually burn-out.

Here are four major ingredients that will help enhance your play:

Environment: There is a good reason that people choose to have their picnics at a park instead of a construction site. Remember that space\place is very important for maximizing your play.

People: Your family and friends are the most important people in your life. Play will increase your connections with all of them. Laughter is a wonderful thing to share with others.

Music: Since time immemorial, humans have loved to sing, play instruments, and dance. There is no known culture that does not celebrate with music. Music often can provide a context for any event. Set the tone and mood for your play with music that everyone enjoys. Be open minded to new genres as well.

Food: A friend of mine once told me that “without food, a party is really just a group of people looking for the soup line.” More seriously, sharing a meal is a powerful human experience. Good food always brings smiles.