Have Fun (and Be More Productive)

I just watched this TED talk, “Why having fun is the secret to a healthier life” by Catherine Price. I think you should watch it, too. But in case you don’t have time, you should know that she redefines fun as having three factors: playfulness, connection, and flow.

I think a lot of what makes work (and school) so hard for many of us, and particularly draining for me as a neurodivergent person, is the idea that we need to “get it right”. We need to already know the right answers, we need to never risk getting corrected by one of our peers.

We’re taught this in school when we’re graded on tests with no opportunity to demonstrate that we’re still learning and getting better. Our ability to get into a good college, or get a good job, is dependent on whether we get good grades. And when we’re neurodivergent, and often miss “obvious” things that all the other kids noticed, we learn, deeply, that we’re often wrong for reasons we can’t anticipate but should have.

But as adults, needing to “get it right” is antithetical to collaboration, and it’s stressful.

When I was a manager, one of my goals was to make team meetings fun. It wasn’t a conscious goal, and I hadn’t watched this talk yet, but if I was going to waste my team’s time for half an hour plus, I wanted them to feel like the time had value. It might be value in the form of team building, growth of skills, or collaboration & brainstorming. But it always started with team building, which we accomplished by having fun together.

Especially once COVID hit, and we were all just little boxes on the screen and couldn’t just run into each other on the way to getting coffee, we would start our meetings with “ice breaker” questions. One question I remember best was to share our favorite children’s books — everyone had their favorites, and we loved hearing about them whether they were familiar or not.

I’m more creative, more energized, and have more capacity when I’m having fun. And I’m smaller, less innovative, and more tired when I’m trying to be perfect.

What do you do to bring play, connection, and flow to your work or personal life?