23 Oct The wisdom of slowing down ..
Today’s fast-paced, hectic world creates a lifestyle where multi-tasking, hurriedness, and workaholism prevail.
At work, “faster is better” and “more is better” are dominating concepts and most people are under the impression that the busier they keep themselves within the day, the more productive and fulfilled they will be.However, there is compelling evidence that slowing down can indeed increase life satisfaction and improve productivity.
Below are some common myths surrounding the theory that working more equals being more productive and happy.
Myth #1: Overworking will make you more productive.
Productivity should not be equated with working more hours. Sara Robinson wrote an insightful article, according to which if an employer is increasing his team’s hours in the office by 50%, he or she will NOT get 50% more output. In fact, in 50% more time, modern-day managers can expect around 25% more work.
Employees best work is usually turned in between hours 2 and 6. By the ninth hour, fatigue starts to set in and from then on employees deliver only a tiny fraction of their usual capacity, until around 10 hours (maximum 12 hours) when they are completely exhausted.
Also, working overtime is only effective for a short period and usually drops significantly after the second week, dramatically declining with every successive week. Without recreation, proper nutrition, adequate rest, and time off, people lose their ability to focus; they get dull. This means that they make mistakes that they would not have done if they were more rested, and lose ground week after week due to mental exhaustion.
So, the fastest way to increase a company’s profits is by getting everybody back onto a 40-hour footing rather than the 60-hour-a-week treadmill.
Myth #2: Being overscheduled improves happiness and productivity.
If you ask 100 people how they are doing, 99 will tell you how busy they are. It seems this has become a default response to that question. Interestingly, a multi-year poll showed that people get busier with every passing year and the number of those that have no time for vacations, doing things for fun, having family time or barely keeping up is steadily increasing.
We’ve reached the point where those that are not so busy are looked down upon!
Even children are overburdened and overscheduled. Today’s parents feel that their parenting is inadequate or deficient if their children aren’t in all kinds of activities, according to child psychiatrist and author Alvin Rosenfeld (M.D.). Therefore, children are pushed to be competitive… to achieve.
It is said that today’s people are busy because of their own anxiety or drive or ambition and that they feel guilty when not promoting their work somehow. Their lives have a meaning if they are overbooked with activities. Idleness is perceived as a flaw.
However, idleness is not just a vice or a vacation. It is crucial to our brain that needs more downtime to generate its most innovative ideas and remain industrious. It has been evidenced that downtime encourages creativity and productivity, allows people to achieve their highest performance levels, and replenishes the brain’s stores of motivation and attention. Not to mention that rest enables the secretion of serotonin, any imbalance of which is associated with one’s mood and can lead to depression.
A study conducted on behalf of the London Business School showed that many employees keep themselves busy just by being engaged in tasks and not focusing on priority work. Yet what do managers eventually do? Measure busyness levels and NOT results!
Myth #3: Multi-tasking boosts productivity
Multi-tasking is performing many tasks at the same time or performing several tasks in quick succession, even switching back and forth between tasks. When employees were measured when switching tasks, they were found less productive than if they were working on a single assignment. They were also found losing significant amounts of time, which increased the more complex the tasks were.
Research has shown that productivity can drop down 40% by switching tasks or multi-tasking. This is because the brain has certain functions that manage multi-tasking, called executive functions, which determine in what order, when, and how tasks are performed.
This is a 2-stage process. The first stage is known as goal shifting and the other as role activation, which is deciding what to do first and changing from the regulations of the previous task to the ones for the new task respectively. Switching between them repeatedly, will add up considerable amounts of time and, in situations where productivity or even safety are essential, this time loss could prove crucial (imagine driving and sending text messages simultaneously to get an idea or doing the laundry and watching TV at the same time).
Finally, Ever heard of the Blue Zones?
National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner has found the best strategies for longevity in places where a higher percentage of people enjoy full and remarkably long lives. According to him, with the right lifestyle, you increase your life span by another 10 years and slowing down from time to time is an indispensable part of the success recipe!