Find your Unwork Activity. (Episode 136)

Find your Unwork Activity. (Episode 136)

Interview with Oddbjørn Skauge, CIO at StrongPoint.


Here is a message that many professionals need to hear: Think less about work!

If you have a job where you cannot stop thinking about your work even after you have left for the day, you know the feeling of “always on”. The work consumes you. You keep thinking about your problems and challenges all the time, from when you wake up to when you go to sleep – sometimes even while you sleep.

It, of course, can be inspiring and energising to have a job that you are passionate about, but even passionate people need a break.

To rest, and recharge. To get perspective and to relax. To pause the thoughts for a while.

But thoughts are tricky things, they tend to sneak up on you, bug you and pester you and come back to haunt you.

That is why you need an activity that I have chosen to call: an Unwork Activity. An Unwork Activity, or an “UA”,  is an activity that stops you from thinking about your work for a while.

I learned about UA  from Oddbjørn Skauge. Oddbjørn is the CIO at StrongPoint,  a retail technology company that provides solutions and services to make shops smarter, shopping experiences better and online grocery shopping more efficient.

Oddbjørn told me that in his job as CIO he is constantly thinking about how new technologies can affect Strongpoint. Then there are to-do-lists, problems and challenges and backlogs…

Oddbjørn: “My work brain is always on. Non-stop thinking of challenges and opportunities that new technology is presenting to us. That’s why my Unwork Activities are so important. They keep me sane. It’s about unplugging the work brain.”

Descartes famously said: “I think, therefore I am”. But to stay sane and creative perhaps we more often have to remind ourselves of this message: “I am not thinking of work, therefore I am.”

For Oddbjørn, his Unwork Activities are cooking, fishing, hunting and brewing beer.

An Unwork Activity is not a hobby. It CAN be a hobby, but the most important aspect of an UA is that it’s an activity that makes it virtually impossible for you to think about work.

So it’s important that your Unwork Activity does not remind you about work.

Earlier in his career Oddbjørn worked in a fishing shop and then going fishing was not a relaxing way to forget about work, it was too related to his job in the fish store. So then playing computer games became his UA. But now that he works with computers sitting in front of a computer playing computer games is too closely related to his work. Playing computer games is no longer an Unwork Activity, but going fishing is. When picking an Unwork Activity it’s important that it blocks your work brain from being activated.

Oddbjørn explained how going hunting and sitting in the forest waiting for an elk works as the perfect Unwork Activity for him. Waiting for an elk that might or might not come sees his mind wander to relaxing places and back to the forest  – but, because hunting is so different from his CIO job, very RARELY does his mind think about work when he hunts.

What is your Unwork Activity – a thing you do in order to not be able to think about work. And how much time do you spend doing Unwork Activities? Is it enough?

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