As you know, if you have followed my writing, I write a lot about productivity for Adults with ADHD — how to get your important stuff done.
And, judging from the responses I’ve received over the years, I know you really want and need this information.
While we all need to be productive, check tasks off our list, I also don’t think it should be an end in itself. So, I’d like to think you are using the information I provide to create the life you want — a life that reflects your values.
If I asked you to list your values quickly, right now, play may not show up on your list.
But I’m also guessing that, while play may not be on your list of values and you may not play as often as you would like, it is something you would definitely like to do more of, right?
And, if you knew how play could benefit you, you might also trust that it really is a good use of your time even though you are really busy now.
What Does It Mean To Play?
We know play is something we do for enjoyment and recreation with no concrete goal in mind. When we think of playing we often think of specific activities, such as:
- playing a game with family and friends
- hanging out at a party
But, if you are mindlessly surfing the web or watching TV as a means of tuning out or avoiding tasks, it may not really be enjoyable, right? That is not play.
What do you do now for no other purpose than enjoyment? How else would you like to play?
Play Can Also Be An Attitude
But, as Kirstin Milliken, author of PlayADHD, points out play can also be an attitude.
And when you adopt play as an attitude you can turn an activity into something that is playful, such as:
- playing upbeat music and singing as you wash the dishes
- setting a timer and racing to see how many emails you can process in the allotted time
- cooking with a family member or friend
- taking a break at work to hang out with your colleagues
Adopting play as an attitude makes things, well, more fun, of course. How can you be more playful?
Play Can Help ADHD Adults Improve Executive Functions
While play as a means of having fun is, of course, a good enough end in and of itself, play can also help Adults with ADHD be more productive.
As you already know, when a task is not interesting for you, it can feel like slogging through quicksand when you try to do it. That is, if you can even get started!
One of the reasons for this sense of inertia is a lack of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, needed for the various parts of your brain to do their job and enable you to:
- pay attention
- regulate your emotions
When you play dopamine is released, helping the various parts of your brain to carry out the above executive functions necessary to be productive.
Nice, right? All from having fun!
How can you be more playful in your approach to your tasks so you can be more productive?
Play Helps ADHD Adults Connect With Others
On Dr. Edward Hallowell’s list of Seven Habits of Highly Effective ADHD Adults, he includes “make sure you keep up regular contact with a few good friends.” Play is one way you can connect with friends, for sure.
But, beyond connecting with a few good friends, play can also help you develop your other personal and professional relationships. Think about what happens when you…
- share a joke with a colleague.
- play charades at a party.
- are goofy with a family member or friend.
- engage in a fun activity with someone.
In many of these instances you are able to forge a better relationship in part because you are enjoying the connection.
And cultivating these positive connections is one of the keys to having a life full of joy, success, and satisfaction. We all want that, right?
So, who can you play with today?
Play Helps ADHD Adults Reduce Overwhelm and Stress
As an Adult with ADHD, if you are experiencing significant overwhelm and stress, it is likely in part caused by your ADHD symptoms. So, you definitely want to learn how to manage these symptoms well enough.
But working too much on managing your weaknesses can also contribute to your overwhelm and stress. So, the trick is to find some balance between:
- working on areas you want to change
- working in your areas of strength
- just being or playing.
Remember, when you play the only goal is to have fun and forget about work and other commitments. Without a respite from work you may burn out and not be able follow through on your commitments.
Maybe you’ve already had this experience.
Of course, I’m not sure what the right balance between work and play is for you. You’ll have to do some experimenting to figure this out.
What can you do this week to have more balance between work and play?
Play Helps ADHD Adults Think Creatively
Think of a recent time when you were trying to find the solution to a particularly challenging problem, such as:
- crafting a report, paper or email.
- creating the right service or product for your business.
- deciding how to respond to a colleague, client, friend or family member.
- figuring out a workaround to some obstacle in your content area at work.
What did you do?
Maybe you sat there, wracking your brain for an answer, convinced you should be able to come up with a solution by yourself. But, at times this effort was to little or no avail. And then, when you couldn’t come up with a solution, maybe you just gave up and avoided thinking about it.
Sometimes, rather than trying harder, it is better to take a break, step away from the problem so you can get a different perspective — think creatively.
One way to get your creative juices going is to play.
I bet there have been times when you are playing and seemingly out of nowhere you come up with a solution to a particularly vexing problem and you thought, “That is what I need to do!”
You may have even been surprised at how easy it was to come up with the solution when you weren’t even trying. If that has ever happened to you, you know how playing, rather than trying harder, can sometimes be the answer.
Today, when you get stuck, stop working. Try playing. See what happens.
Next Step For You
Go and play.
I know, as an Adult with ADHD, you may think, “I can’t play until I get my work done.”
I get it.
In these moments use self-talk to remind yourself, “I need to take a break to take care of myself and my relationships, and working harder is not necessarily going to produce the results I want, anyway.”