Could Wasting Time Be a Good Thing?
Here’s an ironic statement for you. I recently started reading “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less” by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang as a way to wind down at the end of the night and break my pre-bedtime Instagram scrolling habit. I hate that I always have my phone in my hand, but I can’t seem to stop myself. What’s ironic about this statement is that the decision to read was my way of “doing less,” even though reading before bed is easily much more stimulating. Pang’s take on rest and work is as simple as it is fascinating. He states that work expands to fill the time it’s given. Meaning, for many of us, we could spend less time at work and more time at home, while still getting the same amount done.
He goes on to discuss that work and rest are not opposites as we have come to believe in today’s culture. In fact, more productive work comes from more productive rest! Ah, but what is rest?
We have become obsessed as a culture with productivity hacks and being in constant motion. As soon as we wake up, we lean over to check our phones. When waiting in line, it’s an excuse to scroll through new email. When you’re momentarily stopped at a stoplight, do you think of five things you could do on your phone while you wait? What about our children? As soon as school is over, we’re rushing them to sports and extracurricular events, sometimes multiple activities within one day. On the weekends, we’re “catching up on work” that somehow doesn’t get done during the work week. The importance is on using each and every minute incessantly.
Case in point: As I was writing this post, I stalled in my thought process and, instead of simply sitting back and reflecting on what I wanted to say, I took out the garbage, put in a new bag, checked my bank statement, and did one quick refresh of Instagram before I figured it was time to shift back to what I wanted to say.
Why can’t we just sit back and relax?
That’s just the thing. We can and we should. In fact, Pang argues, deliberate rest could be the key to being more productive and leading a better, healthier lifestyle. I can’t help but marvel at how much better I feel when I make sleep a priority (it is, of course, still a work in progress) and focus on self-care for myself. I also always preach about avoiding overcommitment and it’s strain on our mental capacity.
The problem, I’d say, is our fixation on the time-equals-money equation. More work equals mo’ money. Or at least that is how the rap song goes. Or maybe it’s I’ve got 99 problems but money ain’t one? Regardless, the saying goes on to say that if we want to become a tech giant before 30, we have to spend endless hours in front of our computer. Nothing earned if nothing sacrificed. Even our soul.
But what I’ve noticed is that this equation inhibits those of us who identify as “creatives.” Now, certainly, I go back and forth on the term for myself, but ultimately, I fall into this category. The best ideas, and subsequently, the best blog posts, come to me when I feel well-rested and relaxed. If I have an afternoon free to leisurely finish a deadline, I feel much happier and proud of the finished product. When my schedule is tight and my time to let my brain wander is limited, I find myself more stressed and anxious as a result. And, I’d like to think that my work suffers. It’s almost like the saying, “If your hearts not in it…” Well, working feverishly and fanatically without any real purpose is the premier case of my heart not being in something. In fact, when I do take a purposeful break from the blog, to go for a walk or a short workout, I find that I come back with a renewed and excited sense about my work.
So what can we do?
For the sake of our collective health, I’d like to see everyone work less. Less work, more rest. While not entirely applicable to everyone’s life, I do enjoy the book The Four-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss. Ferriss brings up a few good ideas that I think most people could work into their daily work schedule, including automating redundant tasks. Ask yourself: what could you delegate or abolish that is not serving you? By streamlining the process, you’re able to be more efficient, and thereby, start the process of working less.
When it comes to rest, let’s go back to Pang’s idea of deliberate rest. Let me explain. Pencil in your daily schedule time to unplug. Do you meditate? Try some great podcasts on meditation. Go for a long walk each morning, especially if you feel like you have “too much to do.” Put down your phone. Turn off the TV. Take a bath and just relax. Think about how you feel in the moment, without trying to stuff each minute full of busyness. Go to bed earlier. We need to give our brains and bodies time to process the day without continually inputting them full of new information.
Simplify your life. Rest more. See how it makes you feel.
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Photography by Laurie Adalle Photography
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