Have you become too productive?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, according to the classic saying. But is all work also making Jack a dumber boy?

You want to improve yourself and your brain to improve your business. It’s a natural impulse and one that’s evidenced and reinforced by our seemingly endless attraction to productivity tips and procrastination busters aimed at helping hardworking business owners wring a little more work out of each hour.

But according to neuroscientists there is a thing as too much productivity.

You’ve gone too far, they say, when you’ve squeezed all the play out of your day in the name of efficiency. Such total devotion to rationality and hard work doesn’t just make you bad conversation at a cocktail party, says a fascinating recent post on Boing Boing, evidence suggests it also may make your brain less supple, creative and resilient. And supple, creative and resilient are all traits entrepreneurship demands. Linda stone writes:

Play researchers’ findings indicate that self-directed play, for both children and adults, nourishes the human spirit and helps develop resilience, independence, and resourcefulness. Yet, our desire to be efficient and productive, and our tendency to over-schedule and over-program, has crowded out opportunities for self-directed play in our education system and in our lives at home.

According to [author Sergio] Pellis, self-directed play supports us in better handling the complex and the unpredictable, both in social and in non-social situations.

Referencing Pellis’ book The Playful Brain: Venturing to the Limits of Neuroscience, Stone relates not just thought-provoking tales of our changing childhoods and their effect on the development of children (parents should check it out), but also rounds up research on the importance of play for adults – even very serious, business owning ones like you.

Play, she suggests, doesn’t just make your brain more agile. It may also help stave off anxiety and depression. “Play scholar, Brian Sutton-Smith, wrote ‘The opposite of play is not work. The opposite of play is depression,'” she reports before highlighting alarming statistics on mental health that may be correlated with our national diminishing interest in self-directed play (nope, those endless lessons and activities you’re schlepping you kids to don’t count as true play).

“NIMH reports that one in ten adults are depressed, up over 400% in the last two decades, with far more suffering from anxiety and other mood-related disorders,” she notes.

Check out the post for much more on the importance of play, including the link between lack of childhood play and later criminality, musings on our education system, and more details on exactly what brain capacities play helps to build.

Are you undervaluing play?