We all know the old adage about all work and no play, but scientist have discovered that it not only makes Jack a dull boy to be around, it can also dull some of his essential business skills too.
That’s why an increasing number of career-focused business people are turning to games in their spare time to sharpen up their skills as they play.
These games include traditional favourites, complete with board and box, that you can play at home with your friends and family.
You can also benefit from the very latest online apps designed specifically to help you make the most of every minute of downtime, whether you’re breaking out from a big meeting or stuck on the train trying to get to work in the first place.
Choosing the right game means you can have fun, relax and stop talking work all the time, while still quietly building your skills to make you a better businessperson.
Chess has been sharpening our strategic thinking for over 1,500 years
Strategic board games date back thousands of years, with the first chess set, discovered on the Isle of Lewis, dating back to the 13th century. The game hasn’t changed much in the 800 years since, and it is still a real test of strategy and forward planning that can add to the arsenal of any executive.
To stay ahead you must constantly weigh up the risks and potential outcomes of every move, which is no bad approach to business.
If you really want to hone your business strategy, you could do a lot worse than playing the ultimate business game, Monopoly. It’s a great way to see if you have what it takes to create an empire in a world where random events are always waiting just around the corner.
Word and number games
Surprisingly, the humble crossword is a relatively new invention, first appearing in 1862. These days, the pinnacle of puzzles - such as the Times crossword in the UK, or the New York Times crossword in the US - provide a daily workout for thousands of wordsmiths as they exercise their problem solving skills and build their vocabulary.
The crossword’s number equivalent, the sudoku, is also a recent invention, with early versions appearing at the end of the 19th century, and the puzzle as we know it appearing as late as 1979.
A test of logic and deduction, rather than maths skills, these fiendish puzzles are a great way to keep your mind sharp, or to warm up your grey cells for a big presentation.
Rubik may have stolen the market in testing your strategy and spatial awareness, but physical puzzles have been around since the earliest civilisations. Intricate puzzle boxes were often used to protect valuables or secret messages, and today they can present a test that is every bit as puzzling as that infamous cube.
Even simple, twisted, steel knot puzzles can stimulate the mind, forcing you to exercise areas of your brain that computer spreadsheets and monthly reports seldom reach.
Of course, these days you don't need a board game or a twisty plastic cube to do your brain training. You can improve your mind online almost anywhere, with a huge range of game apps, from vocabulary builders like WordsWithFriends to strategy games with PokerStars, which you can play on your smart phone.
Even Angry Birds makes you think strategically and solve complex problems.
You can take this a step further with dedicated brain training apps, designed to make you smarter as you play.
These games have been carefully created by psychologists and neurologists as a cognitive ‘gym’ where you can give your brain a workout to build your memory, attention span, creative thinking and flexibility, just like you’d build your arm or leg strength using weights.
Look for something different
Online or traditional, the best games for business people are ones that encourage you to use skills and think in ways that you don’t normally do in your everyday work. It is easy to get good at what you do every day, but if you want to move on and move up, you need to demonstrate different skills and fresh ways of thinking.
When it comes to games, thinking inside the box, can help you to think outside the box. So make sure your life isn’t all work and no play, because ‘dull boys’ rarely get the exciting opportunities!