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Work-Play Balance

Life has 4 components: health, work, love, and play. But somewhere on the journey to adulthood, we forgot how to play. Let's change that.

Dominik Nitsch
3 min read
Work-Play Balance
Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

My favourite job interview question:

“What do you do in your free time?”

My favourite answer so far:

“I have a YouTube channel where I film myself doing makeup and teaching others how to do the same.”

How cool is that?!

The candidate was determined, a great culture fit, and quite frankly, really good at what we wanted her to do, as were many other candidates.

Her hobby made her stand out.

Not because it was such a particular hobby.

No, because this candidate had something to be passionate about in her free time.

Think back to when you were a child.

You played. Computer games. Sports. Lego. Anything, really.

Life was mostly defined by Play. School was merely a hassle, an interlude you had to suffer through so you could go back to playing.

And today?

Work. Responsibilities. Commitments.

We get wrapped up in our lives, between long hours, financial stress, and cleaning up the house.

So much that we forget to play.

In their fabulous book “Designing Your Life”, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans introduce a gauge to assess your current life. It contains four factors:

Health, Work, Love, and Play.

How to Use Design Thinking to Design Your Life (Based on ...
Graphic taken from the “Designing Your Life” book.

Your life is full if all four gauges are full.

Which is … surprisingly difficult.

Health is an understandable priority. Work refers to tasks done with a specific goal in mind, not necessarily for joy. Love encompasses romantic relationships, family, and friends. Play is the realm of pure joy, devoid of any purpose beyond the sheer delight it brings.


What was it like back in the day?

  • When we were children, we wouldn’t play tag to get better at something. We would do it for fun.
  • When we were children, we wouldn’t play with Lego to become the best Lego builder in the world. We would do it for fun.
  • When we were children, we wouldn’t play “doctor” in order to become a doctor in the future. We would do it … just for fun.

Somewhere along the journey to adulthood, we forgot how to do things … just for fun.

Today, we:

  • … go to the gym because we want to have a better body. Not just for fun.
  • … we read self-improvement books because we want to be better. Not just for fun.
  • … we write newsletters because we want to boost our careers. Not just for fun.

Wait … does this mean that the things I would consider a hobby are actually work?!

Well, shit.

This hit me like a brick.

Because yes, according to the definition above, these activities are Work. If that’s you, your life is all work, no play. It’s out of balance.

“But what about the activities we purely do for fun?”

Here’s a reality check:

  • Knocking back drinks with friends? Not a hobby.
  • Binge-watching Netflix? Not a hobby.
  • Endlessly scrolling through social media? Definitely not a hobby.

Besides that, when did you ever feel more energized after doing any of these activities?

If we want to add play back to our life, we need a hobby.

Which, scientifically speaking, only boasts advantages:

  1. Enhanced mental health
  2. Reduced stress levels
  3. Increased overall well-being
  4. Improved relationships (+ great opportunity to meet romantic partners!)

Bonus: having a hobby is really cool. Gives you something to talk about when you accidentally attend another networking event.

So if you meet regularly to play D&D, play an instrument, play a sport, or have any sort of other cool, out-of-the-box hobby like creating makeup videos, I’m rooting for you.

For the ones who don’t, two questions remain: how and when?

How do you find a new hobby?

Honestly, the best way is probably to just try out a lot of stuff and see what sticks, like this HBR author did.

When can you find time to dedicate to your new hobby?

This warrants a whole separate article, but in short: work less, waste less time on your phone, and follow a routine.

At some point, you’ll find something that makes you want to get up in the morning and just do that. Reminiscent of the joy of your childhood days, allowing you to unleash your inner child.

Find your hobby.

Add some Play to your life.

Find your Work-Play Balance.

And in your next job interview, talk about that hobby. You might just stand out.

PS - here are a few more of my favourite answers from job interviews and CVs:

  • Inline figure skating
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Caving
  • A traditional Italian activity called “albero della cuccagna
  • And (this was only in a CV), I shit you not, “Netflix & Chill”

Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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