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Feeling Stuck at Work? Switch to “Play Mode”

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Jan 26 2018

I get stuck a lot. I get stuck writing, editing, making slides, designing, replying to email. I get stuck anytime I want to get something right.

My friend Stefan suggested I try a different mindset. Instead of trying to get things right, I should put myself in “play mode.” From his email:

In “play,” just write or work on something you want to be working on. At the end, if you like what you’ve done, bring it in... If you don’t, discard it... It’s okay if nothing comes from it.

Right then, I was working on an illustration for part of my book where some early readers got confused. But I wanted to get it right, so I’d been putting it off. "Okay," I thought. "I can afford to waste an hour on this."

I tried play mode. I told myself the next hour didn’t matter—I was just goofing around and having fun. I set a timer. I made about 15 rough sketches. Then the hour was up. And I hadn’t gotten it right. But I’d broken the ice, and I was in the zone, so I kept working. Thirty minutes later, I had an illustration I was happy with. And the whole thing was fun rather than stressful. Play mode worked!

I’m writing this post to remind myself of the value of play mode. Next time you talk to me and I say, "I’m stuck," tell me to flip the switch.

This post was originally published on Jake Knapp's blog.

  • Jake Knapp

    IDEO Expert in Residence
    Writer, designer, person. Author of Sprint.
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