Humans are not machines, although they were treated as such for many years during the Industrial Age. That's when productivity really became something that was measured and the goal was speed and efficiency. Couple that enduring mindset with today’s technology, and you have a workforce that is never disconnected and always focused on checking things off a constantly growing to-do list. Even machines need to be serviced and need attention to keep working effectively.
Our brains and bodies are set up for cycles of work and rest. Take lunch breaks, for example. They’re an important opportunity for employees to step away and recharge for the day, yet a Tork survey shows how uncommon they are in the North American workplace. According to the survey, more than a third of employees don’t feel encouraged to take a lunch break and nearly 20% worry their bosses won’t think they are hardworking if they take regular lunch breaks. Even so, 90% of employees reported that taking a lunch break helps them feel refreshed and ready to get back to work.
Problem solving does not happen by staring at your computer screen. Our best solutions come from priming our mind with information and then walking away from the project. Recharging in the way that works best for you is critical to accomplishing your goals and doing the deep work that sets up profitable business results.
Give your brain a break
We need to give ourselves permission to play, because this emphasis on productivity has made us feel like we need constant output. Our brain is not wired for that. It focuses for a period of time and then it needs a break. Dr. Stuart Brown, a psychiatrist and founder of the National Institute for Play, explains in this fascinating TED Talk how play is more than just joyful and energizing. It’s deeply involved with human development and intelligence and it’s strongly correlated with success.
When we think about play for adults, it could be completing a Sudoku puzzle, playing golf, participating in a fantasy league, or any other activity that allows you to take a break and get in a creative space. From a neuroscience perspective, our brain needs that downtime. It’s not possible to be on all the time. Adult play is allowing your brain to relax. And it’s amazing what our brain comes up with during that unfocused time.
Make room for innovation and profitability
Our to-do list may include repetitive tasks that can now be accomplished by machines and computers. It's in areas that require innovation, creativity and strategy that we need people. That's where humans bring incredible value and cannot be replaced. In order to solve problems and see new opportunities, you have to get off the hamster wheel and stop just doing, doing, doing.
James Webb Young, an American advertising executive who became First Chairman of The Advertising Council, defined the skill of creativity as the ability to spot new connections between familiar thoughts and the art of creativity as seeing new relationships among those thoughts. The profitability that comes from play can stem from cost savings or product improvements. New solutions, opportunities and systems come out of play and creativity. That's why those three things—play, innovation and profitability—are interrelated.
If you are in the world of finance, you connect things that have to do with the numbers. Those numbers may relate to a story or solving a problem. Applying the numbers requires creativity and innovation. They may be used to help clients see an investment opportunity or help understand how a business is doing and how it can improve. You have to go beyond just running the numbers to see the full potential. Disengaging your mind helps you see what's there more clearly.
Your Masterpiece Work
This topic is important to me because I see so many people working incredibly hard without their potential being fully realized. They’re so busy being productive with all the tasks that they think they need to be doing that they can't get to those things that energize them. They have too many things on their plate to make the highest contribution with what I call their Masterpiece Work. To explore coaching with me to focus on where you shine and make the biggest impact, and to explore how play can propel your success, schedule a 30-minute coaching discovery consultation.