To Do List: Play

When you ask another parent or co-worker the question “How are things?” what type of response do you overwhelmingly get?

  • “Exhausted”
  • “Chaotic”
  • “Crazy”
  • “Overwhelmed”
  • “So, so busy”

I’m right, aren’t I?

As so many of you know by now, I’m obsessed with Brené Brown. I’m currently on Part II of Brené’s Gifts of Imperfection – Oprah’s Life Class series. It’s amazing and even if you can’t do the class, I strongly recommend picking up a copy of her book and reading it….slowly.

I’m a little behind in the class (due to my crazy, chaotic, so busy life), so this guidepost was almost 2 weeks ago. But the title alone is so necessary to share: Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-worth. Along with the videos from Brené and the reading, this image from the week really hit home for me.


I work in a business and an office where we are CONSTANTLY swamped. I eat lunch at my desk and am constantly going at 90 miles an hour all day long. All of my co-workers are swamped. We lock ourselves in our offices and when we do pass each other at the coffeepot, it’s the classic exchange of “how’s it going?” and “so busy, so tired, so crazy, catch you later” banter. And people even seem to equate how busy you act or appear with how busy or important you really are. If you seem less busy, overworked or stressed, maybe you aren’t working hard enough? Full disclosure here: I try to have little escapes, even sometimes pulling 5 minutes on the iPhone with goofing off or even (gulp) meditating. Then, I feel guilt and stress for not making the most of my time, not being more productive.

We are all juggling too many things at work only to get home and deal with more stuff at home. I know that for me, I can work 10 hours, pick up the kids from the babysitter, maybe there’s baseball practice or wrestling, then rush home to make dinner (probably frozen chicken patties in the oven), look over my first grader’s homework, get the boys in the bath/shower, get clothes out for the next day, read, brush teeth, tuck in, go back downstairs to clean the kitchen, maybe read work emails (respond to really, really important ones), pick up a little around the house and get myself ready for bed to curl up with the iPad to maybe check personal emails and Facebook (makes me feel a little social). It will most likely be after 10 pm and I’ve just sat down to do something that’s not work or parenting or an activity that is PRODUCTIVE and/or RESPONSIBLE.

We are all tired. We are all feeling like we have no time for anything and it seems like it’s a badge of courage sometimes to be so tired, busy, overwhelmed, etc.

In Brené’s work (and in the work of Dr. Stuart Brown and Daniel Pink) focuses on the NEED, yes I said it, the NEED for play and rest.

Play is something we seem to scoff at. It’s something that only the leisurely can do. It’s “silly” or “unproductive” or just simply a “waste of time”. But I totally, completely and (dare I say) wholeheartedly agree that we NEED it. If we think about all the things that bring us meaning and happiness, what are those things? Are they the “time wasting, fun, silly” things or are they the productive, hardnosed work-type things? My list of “things that bring me joy” is full of leisurely, non-productive things. I definitely find more joy in play than I do in work. I see more fruitfulness in life adventures than in work accomplishments or big item purchases.

But what is PLAY? Is it checking our twitter feed for 5 minutes during the work day? Is it a short walk at lunchtime looking at our watches and contemplating what next assignment should be dealt with?

Dr. Stuart Brown (check out his book has come up with 7 “Properties of Play” that I have put into my own words. This is what “play” should look and feel like:

Photo by H. Robinson - credit to Dr. Stuart Brown
Photo by H. Robinson – credit to Dr. Stuart Brown

We used to be very consistent in my house with family game night. We’ve slacked lately because of baseball, the wife’s work schedule and just general life crap. One task I’m bringing back is our carefree, silly, ridiculous family game night. And it’s not going to feel like we’re forcing ourselves to do it, it will be our play time.

So, my advice to anyone who feels like they are overwhelmed is to play. Do it. Even if it’s just once a week. Get rest, take a nap, so something that does a body good. Of course you don’t have time, but I’m fairly certain something “productive” could be pushed aside for some “play” when you really think about it.

Then, when all of the moms at the soccer field are talking about how tired, busy, crazy and overwhelmed they all are, you can quietly think (or say aloud if you want dirty looks) about how content, rested and good you are feeling.

2 thoughts on “To Do List: Play

  1. Fantastic piece Holly. I struggle with this. Sometimes I’m not even sure what I like to do for “fun” anymore. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit that. I like that graphic you included about what play should look like!

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