Balance Health Values Wellness

Work versus play

Written by Jill Farmer

We adults like to make play a bad word.

Nothing like vacation season to highlight the contrast between work and play for grown-ups, more than vacation season, when many of us are either: a) counting the minutes until we can stop working and enjoy some rest and relaxation, or b) lamenting the fact we’re back at work (or back to the work of maintaining life at home) and our play time is over.

We have a primal need to play.

Spend a little time watching any nature channel and you’ll see lion cubs chase and tumble, monkeys teasing each other, and those insatiable river otters frolicking their days away.

Play is part of the natural process of life.

But, for most of us, work and play are very different.

When we’re playing, we’re dreading work. When we’re working, we’re dreaming of playing. The main difference between work and play?

Our state of mind. I am more relaxed, open, focused, and pleasant when I’m playing. Many of my clients describe feeling tense, serious, distracted, frustrated, and constricted when they’re working—the opposite of how they feel when they’re playing.

Some time ago, when my coach told me to replace the word work with play in my life, I nearly blew a gasket. To the cynical journalist in me, this seemed:

a) silly
b) futile
c) very cheesy

Still, somehow, she convinced me to begrudgingly give it a try (probably mostly just to prove her wrong). My coach asked me what I planned to do over the next few days.

I told her I needed to seriously work on my website. I had fallen way behind (According to whom? I don’t know. But, that’s a whole ‘nother story) and I needed to spend four hours (minimum!) on my site.

I had officially retired from my commercial freelance gigs and spokesperson work. My website would be the vehicle to unleash my new career on the world. I needed to get going on it.

Only, working on it felt, well, like work.

So, I agreed to give up working on my site, to play a little.

Lo and behold, playing on my website felt a lot freer and more creative than working on it. In the few hours that flew by, I had more accomplished than I’d managed to achieve in weeks of slogging away at my work.

Playing with my paperwork and bookkeeping felt way more fun than working on them, too. Same thing with yardplay and houseplay. (Although I haven’t yet convinced my daughters it’s really homeplay they’re doing after school.)

Defining what we’re doing as play instead of work brings a lightness and a brighter spirit, which is often where our best, most creative, productive, and efficient results emerge.

“Wait a minute,” you may be saying, “Sometimes stuff is just hard. It doesn’t feel like a whoosh down the slide at the park, or a game of Tiddly Winks.”


But, remember, there are all kinds of play.

Any master musician can attest that being a virtuoso doesn’t just happen. It comes from playing a lot of music.

It doesn’t have to be work or play.

Take an open spirit, a sense of enjoyment, and the desire for pleasant fulfillment into your work today.

Go ahead, whistle while you play.

(Excerpted from Jill’s book “There’s Not Enough Time… and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves.”)

About the author

Jill Farmer

I love helping people get more meaningful work done in less time. I am the author of "There's Not Enough Time... and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves" which debuted as a bestseller in the Time Management Category on Amazon. In 2015, The Washington Post named me to its 21-Day Time Hacker team. I travel the world delivering keynotes and seminars for top corporations and organizations. I am also a wife and the mother of two teens and I have the two worst-behaved dogs in the universe. You can reach me at or visit my website

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