We believe that to be more productive, we need to work harder and longer. But research into productivity is showing that this belief is not the case. In fact, slowing down and even taking the time to do nothing at all can actually spur greater productivity.
For the past 20 years, studies have shown that working more than 40 hours a week does not improve productivity, that working longer does not necessarily mean working better. In fact, other research has shown that for groups that put in 60-hour work weeks, the fall off in productivity after just eight weeks is so great that the group could have accomplished just as much working 40-hour weeks.
With the ubiquity of technology these days, people are always connected, always busy doing something. They never seem to take the time to unwind or relax. But there are also cultural norms that frown upon doing nothing, which is seen as being lazy and wasting time.
But some business experts argue that working longer and harder is not the same as working smarter. They say that we need to set aside some time for reflection and relaxation, which allow our imaginations to work and improves our mental health. In fact, they say, we are not designed to work continuously, but in bursts, with rest in between.
Here are some reasons why taking time to reflect and contemplate can improve productivity:
1. It spurs creativity.
It is during this time that our ideas come into focus and that we come up with new insights. When we let our mind wander and access its store of memories, emotions, and ideas, we are more likely to come up with new insights.
2. We learn more about ourselves.
When we allow time for reflection and rest, we become more aware of ourselves, what motivates us, what we like and don’t like. We come to a better understanding of ourselves.
3. Productivity and problem solving improve
Taking time to reflect or meditate helps us to improve our focus and concentration, which in turn directly helps us to be more productive and to solve problems better.