This man says that everything we’ve been taught about work is hurting our performance and life.
Society, it is time we talk. World, it is time we reclaim our personal lives. Everyone, 2015 is the year we cut out technology, diminish our habits of constantly being plugged in, and stop the mentality of never taking a break from work. Let us make this coming year the time we take a step back from work because truly, our jobs depend on it.
In the constantly-on world of the 21st century, we have no chance to escape from work. For almost everyone, some aspect of our jobs is tied to our technology. With access to our email in our pocket, a phone that goes everywhere, and WiFi appearing in the most desolate of mountain ranges, we are always connected to work. We no longer have a change to escape from our careers because disconnecting would mean pausing, but in the eyes of professional society, pausing is often unacceptable. We have manufactured constant pressures of being busy and in turn, disconnecting from our jobs seems only a little more favorable then quitting. The climate of work in our connected society means we must always be on, always engaged, and in a sense, always working. To do otherwise is inconceivable, not if we want to succeed.
The thing is, the lack of work/life separation happening in our world is actually making us less skilled employees. When we are constantly connected, it deprives of us of one of the most profound skills we can harness in the arsenal of creativity. By always being work-focused, we lose capabilities to think, to imagine, to dream and to actually solve the problems laid out before us. If we are always involved in the arena of work, we never get a chance to step back from it.
This is not about your traditional ABC family message how over-working is bad, will cause you to miss your kid’s sporting events, and become a horrible parent. The reason we should work less is more about the skill of creativity and our capabilities of imagining new solutions. Disconnecting isn’t necessary for you to be a good parent, significant other, partner or friend — yes all those things can be influenced by you spending less personal time on work — but turning off our work mindset is essential to our ability of cultivating new ideas.
In the study of creativity, researchers have found that critical parts of the creative process come from downtime, what could be called daydreaming or letting your mind wander, but essentially, the actions that happen when our mind is turned off. Ever feel like you get your best ideas in the shower or when you are driving home? How about when you are running or cooking dinner or cleaning? This is that period. When we are not focused directly on a task, we are given the freedom to form new ideas and impressions about the goals we are trying to accomplish. By turning our minds off, we are tapping into our subconscious.
If you listen to stories of eureka, you often see this common theme. Newton was napping when the apple hit him, Stephen King dreamed up the story behind Carrie due to a comment made during menial labor, and Einstein imagined some of his greatest ideas during walks on the beach. Across stories of sudden inspiration, the concept emerges that these revolutionary ideas did not come from looking directly at the problem. Instead, when individuals stop focusing on the task at hand, the need to solve a dilemma, write a masterpiece, or be their industry game changer, it is possible to find patterns from elsewhere. It is through pausing that people become inspired because in those pauses solutions emerge; solutions that we were too blind to see by constantly staring the problem in the face.
Once we stop focusing on the task before us, we can stumble our way into exploring untapped potentials of the mind. Creativity comes from the down times as much as it comes from when where we are directly using our brain. The answer to our often-sought out problems might be lingering in the back of our mind, waiting for us to turn off and recharge, waiting for us to daydream our way to the solutions. The key lies in allowing our self to turn off.
Very few people are mentally able to sustain themselves for 12 hour days, fully engaged and on, without some level of built in fatigue. Very few great ideas come when we are up all night, focused on the same project. There is nothing wrong with burning the midnight oil. There are many things wrong with never separating ourselves from our one professional pursuit. If we have a job, that we spend at least eight hours a day on, little to no creative benefit comes from spending an additional four to five hours every night when we are at home.
There is value in pausing to recharge our mind and allowing ourselves a break from our cumbersome work projects. There is importance to this. Even if we are half-assing our work, only checking emails a few times at night, only reading a few reports, only designing a few presentations, especially when we are halfway engaging in these habits, we never allow ourselves the chance to remove our mind and let the creative subconscious take over. When we stop allowing ourselves to turn off work, everyone, including our work and ability to generate novel ideas, suffers.
The solution to becoming a better, more creative employee who is capable of producing novel solutions, new answers and getting the most out of your work time is to recognize the need to take a step away from the office. There is no real benefit in always being connected. There are perceived benefits certainly, but in the long run, when we fail to disengage from our job, we fail to take care of ourselves mentally and fail to give work our best brain.
Giving our jobs eight amazing, productive and creative hours is healthier and better than giving work 12, halfway and overcrowded hours. By allowing ourselves to always be connected, to never put work down, we enter into dangerous territory where new ideas can never be formed and we lose access to parts of our brain that our employers would certainly love.
So take a break, take a step back from the work around you. Put down the computer. Turn off the email. Leave your phone in the other room when you go to sleep. Leave work at work. There are benefits in allowing our mind to turn off. Take daily time off from work because your job and ability to be a creative employee actually does depend on it.
Photo: Flickr/ Elizabeth M