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Doing Nothing Increases Productivity & Happiness

Part One: Myths 1-3 About Working More and Faster

written by Ray Williams March 11, 2019
Doing Nothing Increases Productivity & Happiness

Today’s hectic, fast-paced and overstimulated world can create a work and lifestyle of hurriedness, busyness, multitasking, and workaholism, all aimed at increasing productivity and life satisfaction. Yet, there’s compelling evidence that slowing down can actually improve productivity and increase happiness.

I’m sure many of you share my experience of going on vacation for relaxation. Our pace slows down, we usually feel more calm and relaxed, and we take a much-needed respite from our fast pace of life and its responsibilities. Time slows down. Yet, when we return from work, that calm, slower pace disappears, and we’re back on the hamster wheel.

Myths About “More And Faster”

While it is conventional wisdom in the workplace and management reinforces the “more is better” and “faster is better” approach to work, the assumptions are not supported by research. Let’s look at these myths.

Myth 1: More hours of work make you more productive.

We now equate busyness and overwork with productivity, but the two are not the same. In the same way, we’ve equated “seat time” –that is time workers spend in their seats, at their desks, or in meetings–as equivalent to productive work. It may be the reverse. In a New York Times article, “Let’s Be Less Productive,” author Tim Jackson defines productivity as “the amount of output delivered per hour of work in the economy.” Jackson’s view underscores the perception that productivity in all its forms is measured in terms of money and time. Jackson goes on to say, “Time is money…We’ve become conditioned by the language of efficiency.”

Sara Robinson, writing an insightful article in Salon magazine, on the issue of overwork, “Bring Back the 40-hour Work Week,” says: “150 years of research proves that long hours at work will kill profits, productivity, and employees.” Yet, for most of the 20th century, the broad consensus among American business leaders was that working people more than 40 hours a week was “stupid, wasteful, dangerous, and expensive—and the most telling sign of dangerously incompetent management,” Robinson argues. Citing the work of Tom Walker of the Work Less Institute’s Prosperity Covenant, “That output does not rise or fall in direct proportion to the number of hours worked is a lesson that seemingly has to be learned each generation.”

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