OK – we've all heard the old adage "Work hard – play hard".
But what does it mean to you? And do you really know how to?
Imagine if you could get a lot more done at work, a lot better. Imagine if you could really relax every single day. The kind of relaxation that leaves you rearing to go to work the next day. Your 'batteries' fully charged. Your brain fully focused…
I recently finished my second reading of one of the best books ever written (IMHO) The Power of Full Engagement (by Jim Loehr & Tony Schwartz). The book is amazing in many aspects (beyond the scope of the discussion here). But the most memorable lesson of all, is that we need to fully engage in work and fully engage in play to get the most out of our focus and our lives.
If you're able to do that naturally – then perhaps you're naturally gifted – lucky you. If you've made a special intuitive effort to work and play hard – clever you.
Or, if you're like most of us, you're probably thinking that you're pretty good at both, but if you look closely you may find you're not.
Let me explain what I mean with a brief example…
Have you ever been in a similar situation?
You've worked hard for the whole day. But really – you've got a million things done. It's 9 pm now, and you can't even think straight anymore.
You sit down in front of the telly and you find your favorite program of all time is on. Your conscious/thinking brain steps in and wisely advises you that you're fully deserving of this 'couch potato' moment – you've worked your socks off today. So you listen and you start watching…
Then exactly 5 minutes into the program a niggly feeling starts eating at you. Something doesn't quite feel relaxing.
And sure enough in the commercial break, you whip out your iPhone/Blackberry/laptop/(insert favorite techie device) and you start 'doing'… just checking email. Or checking website stats. Or catching up on the latest industry research so you're up to date in the morning…
Does that sound like anything you've experienced before? Anything you experience nightly?
"What's the problem with that?" you may ask.
The problem is that you never fully disengage from work.
As a result you're living in the 'grey zone'. The 'grey zone' you'd guess correctly, is the zone between black and white. Or the zone between engaged and disengaged.
When you're in the 'grey zone' you're NOT focused. You're multi-tasking – which btw is one of the least productive MOs. As a result the 'fruits' of your work are not optimal. And you'd be right to conclude that the same goes for the 'fruits' of your play.
You end up neither fully rested, nor fully satisfied with your day's work.
You end up going to bed and feeling like this work thing is never-ending. And this play thing never started (even though you spent a good hour in front of the telly "relaxing").
Now can you see the problem?
What's the solution?
The solutions is simple in words. Much harder to implement. And incredibly rewarding when implemented.
In short – here are the 3 steps to follow to be able to work hard, play hard, and get real results:
Step 1: Prepare Yourself
— prepare a solution for when you catch yourself in the 'grey zone'.
— make it something memorable and brief.
— give it a name – that way your brain has easy access to the solution – fast.
Step 2: Become Aware
— you can't even begin to fix something, if you don't know it's happening right? Like with all addictions, the first step to getting help is to acknowledge you need the help…
— so watch yourself. Every time you rest – check if you really are. Every time you work – do the same.
Step 3: Take Action
— this one is very logical – if you notice the problem – take action to correct it.
— what may not be so obvious is that for this Action Plan to work in the long term, you MUST ACT RIGHT AWAY. Yes – not in two minutes time, but immediately!
The reason for the urgency is that if you don't act with your "Step 1" solution as you become aware of your behavior, you give your conscious brain time to start analyzing and rationalizing the situation. This negates the effect of your solution – makes things too complicated. And the aim here is to create an automatic/mechanical link (i.e. habit) for you between the behavior and the solution.
So next time you find yourself not fully engaged in your rest, your brain automatically applies the solution you came up with in Step 1.
Here's an example:
As soon as you notice that you're not fully engaged in either work or rest, name the behavior – "grey alert" (don't laugh that's what I name my 'grey' episodes ;o)). Then make a commitment that each time you say "grey alert" you'll consciously make sure all distractions are cleared.
So if you're resting and you find yourself thinking "what productive thing can I do whilst I'm sitting here resting?", you stop thinking of that, and make a focused effort to relax. If it is an idea that you don't want to forget, go write it down for tomorrow, but then come back and focus on the rest at hand… That's it!
All that's left now is to DO. It will take you a few times before you start to do this automatically, but trust me when you do – you'll see how great it is.
So now that I've done all the talking here are my 2 questions again:
What does "work hard – play hard" mean to you? And do you really know how to?
If you don't, now you have the solution.