Don't play games with me. Are you kidding? We should be playing games all the time, especially when work gets tough...

Don’t play games with me.

Play one game at a time.

Players gonna play, play, play, play, play.

There seems to be an awful lot of negativity that seeps into our language when it comes to games. So often in our cliches, lyrics and regular discourse we talk play down —give it a bad rap; that to partake in a game is childish at best and deceitful at worst. 

Yet our best states of work, effort, exercise, strategy and love —yep even love— take place when we approach life as a playful game. This isn’t simply a nice-to-have, it’s actually a must-have for our mood states and even our hard-wired neural pathways.  

Research has shown that after bouts of vigorous play, we get increased levels of BDNF. Now that’s not some weird code on a dating website, it actually is short for brain-derived neurotrophic factor. BDNF is essential for the growth and maintenance of brain cells, so when we talk about being ‘brain-dead’ it’s often because of a lack of game play in tough times in our life.

So as you fully roll into the rhythm of 2016 and hard work feels like, um…hard work, do yourself a favour and embrace a playful, game state. Your mood, your brain and your colleagues will all thank you.

But before you go! I’ve got a few more things;

  • three quick tips for approaching hard work as a game, 
  • two magnificent books, and
  • a free gift for y’all.

A trio of tips

Set rules 

All good games have rules. What are yours going to be? Start with the basic parameters such as time, number of people and outcomes. Then set some rules around physical state and conduct.

Rightio, this email game is going to run for 30 minutes, I’m gonna take my inbox from 200 to 30 and I’m gonna insert some cheeky and playful in every second reply by using the magic word.*   

Include others in the game 

Games played together give you stories and memories. Even if you’re playing an individual game (like smashing your inbox) why not co-opt a few others into a world-championship email smashup game for the morning? Mucho fun. Email Ninjas. Huddle ‘round, set the rules and then check in at the end of it.

Reward yourself

Cut deals and bargain to your heart’s content, but make sure you have a prize or some sort of recognition for stages within your game. So perhaps your game is to come up with three cracking ideas out of a brainstorm session on how we can reduce office waste. The rules are set. Cool. What reward will we give ourselves? A coffee? Collective high-fives? A cat video marathon? Once we win at our game we should bask in the glory of success.

A stunning read-a-thon

Games are much more than simply child’s play. They are the most important things (both constructive and destructive) on the planet. If you haven’t read James Carse’s Finite and Infinite Games - a vision of life as play and possibility, get on that. If you have read it, read it again. So brilliant.

So you'll know we are unabashed fans of our mate Dr Jason Fox. Well he's done it again. Blown our f*%^ing minds, no less. His new book, merely a day or two old, How to Lead a Quest - a handbook for pioneering executives is simply a work of art. This is like, #neklevel book. Get on it. 

A Freebie

Our next Think Tank which we run in conjunction with the wonderful peeps at Bond University will be going deeper into this whole take-tough-work-and-play-it-like-a-game scenario. Sure, I get not everyone lives in SE Qld, but it’s a free session and is worth the flight into the Gold Coast. And heck, why not stay a day or two? Chillax. Mebbe go to Seaworld, Dreamworld, or the Nerang Community Bowls Club. Fun times for all.

Anyhoo, hope this helps you manage the year coming at you.

Game on.

* The magic word isn’t some weird gameplay or ‘safe word’ like 50 Shades kinda thing. It’s picking a word such as koala, cumulus or even unicorn and seeing how you might insert it casually into a sentence. e.g. Hey Mike, got your email about the ACME project and the first stage seems under control. I’d suggest we look into the legislative standards to cover us from random things; potential liability, customer backlash, or even angry unicorns.