Need Inspiration? Take Time To Play

There's nothing like professional play to recoonect to the joys of meaningful work.

There's nothing like professional play to rediscover the joys of meaningful work.

If you have been following my blog, and if you have been reading between the lines, you know that I’m in the midst of redefining my business goals. That sounds so serious and so important, and in some ways, it is. But while my words may sound serious, I’ve taken a much more playful approach in this problem solving activity.

My Business History

For many years, I’ve been happily building online help systems and designing training programs for software. It’s engaging, challenging work. My clients are experiencing a slow down, and I’m taking advantage of this lighter schedule to figure out what I want to do next. While I enjoy that work, I’m not sure it’s exactly what I want to do going forward.

Prior to this streak, I’ve been through stretches where my business has focused on other skills and deliverables. I’ve done extensive elearning development, business analysis, software design, and software requirements collection and documentation. I’ve written technical documents to support international financial systems. All of these were welcome challenges at the time, and with each of them, I reached the point I’m at now. I want a new challenge.

What Do I Want Next?

You might think that with all of my experience asking myself what I want to do next, I’d be faster and more efficient at figuring it out. In some ways, I am getting better at figuring it out each time. But in most ways, it seems that the ideas of what I want to try next come along at unexpected times, triggered by the least likely of events. I can’t just sit down with a tablet and start making a list of what I want to do next. It might work like that for you, but that doesn’t work for me.

So, how am I figuring this out?

For starters, I find I have plenty of hours each week that no one has lined up to buy. That means I have a liberty to take on my own projects. To experiment. To do things I’ve wanted to try but never had the time. I redesigned my company website, then I launched a blog. I jumped with both feet into social media. I submitted a proposal to speak at the WritersUA conference. I started working with a handful of clients who need social media advice. I volunteered to help create the Ignite Phoenix events, and took on the marketing and some community building tasks. I helped a new application in a local incubator rework some online screen instructions.

During this time, I’ve dabbled and explored and learned much about a variety of things. It’s been like a professional sandbox where I could build things with myself as the client. I could restart, backup, and retread my ideas all day and night. I could even fail, which happened several times.

I’ve also expanded my professional network to include many of the technical professionals in Phoenix, and I’ve found them exhilarating. (Yes, Twitter peeps, I mean you!) I’ve heard a few ideas that might just be brilliant, but apart from those, the greatest thing I’ve picked up from them is a fresh perspective on work, and a fearless, indestructible attitude towards business challenges.  Yes, some of that is the hubris of youth, but it’s still a source of sparks that this well-experienced professional finds exciting.

Outcomes

I’ve been grateful for this time, and I’ve used it to my best advantage. I’ve traveled many roads, gained experience, and taken lots of notes along the way. There have been some creative sparks, but no real rockets of amazement. Well, not until the last few days.

Suddenly, and without warning, I’m finding my daydreams are taking me places that are juicy and rich with fresh ideas. I find I’m taking two things that I’ve treated as separate things, and seeing a common ground between them. I’m finding new patterns and new ideas have taken root in the experimentation and projects I’ve worked recently. It’s too early to announce anything for my business, but I do want to share that I’m jazzed and excited about the potential for my business in the near future and for the short term. I see great things just ahead.

Are You Engaged In Play?

While I’m enjoying this moment of discovery after many months of professional play, I want to leave you with this video “Why play is vital — no matter your age.” If you are unfamiliar with the Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) conference, it’s an inspiring annual event where thought leaders give short talks designed to inspire us and change the way we look at our lives and our world. This talk from Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates the importance of play from this psychiatrist’s research.

If you want to learn more, TED videos are available from the TED site, on YouTube, and through a free download from the podcast area of iTunes. One of them might just inspire YOU to some play as well.

About author:

Charlene is the information strategist behind Crow Information Design.

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