The Norman Transcript

Columns

March 24, 2014

Don’t fear adding to life’s juggling

NORMAN — Follow your bliss. Just do it. Do what you love, and the money will follow. Lean in.

These are life-guidance mottos that have taken a turn on the stage of the American consciousness. But there’s one I’d like to add that is particularly necessary now: Don’t forget to play.

There’s evidence that this activity that many of us associate with childhood can energize lives that are mired in Leaning In, doing more with less, multitasking and Having It All, according to a meticulously researched new book by Washington Post columnist Brigid Schulte, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time.”

And Wharton School business professor Stew Friedman, writing for the “Harvard Business Review” earlier this month, claims that people can be more productive by spending less time on and less attention to work. He coaches high-powered clients to add a non-work activity in an area of life they’ve been neglecting, and witness better results in all parts of life. It’s a paradox that even in the busiest of lives adding an activity can ease one’s load by generating emotional satisfaction. Taking time to play is a leap of faith when Americans compete over who’s busiest as a sign of status. It’s like the man in the Cadillac commercial who brags that he only takes two weeks off in August.

Playing might seem an odd idea for an adult. But this isn’t pulling out the Monopoly board for a family game. It’s about creating a quality of life that many of us thought was gone because of work and family commitments. Instead, it’s doing a little more of what makes your “heart sing,” to borrow a phrase from Schulte.

Barbara Brannen, a successful Denver executive with two kids profiled in “Overwhelmed,” found herself so stressed-out from working all the time that her health suffered dramatically: She lost the use of her left arm. After that wake-up call and some surgery, Brannen began adding back simple pleasures like reading the comics and, when she walked past the piano in her home, stopping to play for a few minutes. She bought a kayak and splashed around in a nearby lake.

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