Why being a workaholic is not the key to greater productivity.
“When we stop and rest properly, we’re not paying a tax on creativity. We’re investing in it,” writes Pang (The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul, 2013, etc.). While he is by no means the first to recognize this, the workaholic ethos is still dominant in our culture, to the detriment of our health and personal well-being. Here, the author integrates the latest findings from neuropsychology—e.g., a Dutch study that showed how allowing the mind to wander while performing a demanding task actually improved student performance. Pang suggests that Malcolm Gladwell’s influential thesis in his often cited book Outliers is incomplete. While not disagreeing with Gladwell’s contention that world-class performers will have clocked at least 10,000 practice hours, Pang contends that 12,500 hours of deliberate rest and 30,000 hours of sleep were also necessary. This is not only because rest and sleep are vital to our health, but they also give the mind the opportunity to work on problems offline. While we sleep, memory consolidation takes place. As brain scans have demonstrated, taking a break from a demanding task frees the mind to wander productively. Many creative people accomplish this by walking or napping. Surprisingly, for Winston Churchill, a midafternoon nap was an inflexible part of his routine, even at the height of World War II. Pang decries the modern tendency of people in high-powered jobs to work 24/7, taking work home with them and delaying or foregoing vacations. Not only is this detrimental to family relationships, it actually decreases productivity. Pang also warns that while child-rearing or volunteering are important activities, we also need personal time and space.
A useful holiday gift at a time when New Year’s resolutions will be on the agenda.