Friday, April 24, 2015

Are You Working Too Hard?

by Dotti

[Disclaimer: the photos in this post have nothing to do with the post. I just thought you needed to see more spring photos.]

This may be no surprise to you, but Americans put in far longer work days than workers in most any other country in the world and take fewer vacation days as well. Often times, we don’t even take sick days when we’re sick! It sounds like we’re working harder but not smarter.

So, what to do about it?

A couple of weeks ago, I read an interesting article in the Washington Post about this very subject. Sadly, if your job requires certain hours per day, there may not be much you can do about the number of hours you work but there are some things you can do to mitigate the situation. For those who have more control over their schedules, there are strategies you can employ to help yourself work smarter rather than harder. And for those of us who are retired or not in the work force, these same strategies may prove helpful for us, particularly those of us who consider ourselves ‘creatives’.

Here’s a brief synopsis of what the article says.

For starters, I learned that some of the most brilliant and productive people in the world work {or worked} only 4 or 5 hours a day, and that time was spent in intense work on whatever project was at hand. While they may have spent more hours in other endeavors, those tasks were less demanding.

Here comes the interesting part:  they knew that effective rest and leisure activities were essential to their overall productivity. Some examples:
  • Most were physically active, hiking, walking, sailing, or whatever their activity of choice was. In other words, 'rest' didn't mean 'sedentary'.
  • However, many productive people do nap during the day.
  • Each day, Charles Darwin would take long walks on his 'thinking path'.
  • Charles Dickens walked about 10 miles a day.
  • The most accomplished musicians practiced more than other less accomplished musicians but also slept an hour more on average.

I take this to mean that we, you and I, should take our rest time seriously in order to increase our overall productivity and creativity and we should do it most days, not just on weekends or holidays. Further, when I discovered what so many famous geniuses did with their leisure time, I immediately connected it to the Nature Deficit Disorder that both Carol and Kim wrote about recently.

With all the constant digital stimulation, we’ve lost touch with nature, each other and ourselves … our creative selves.

The good news is that we don’t necessarily have to go to the local park or the nearest state park , lake or nature preserve. I have found that taking a walk around my yard {but ignoring the weeds!} or neighborhood with my eyes wide open, camera in hand {or not} can be a mini-thinking path. Fifteen, twenty minutes of this and the cobwebs in my brain begin to clear, I begin to find myself again. When I take a longer walk, it’s even better.

Here are some of the strategies listed in the article that I mentioned:
  • Take rest seriously.
  • Learn to say 'no' to things you don't want to or don't need to do.
  • If you can't change your hours at work, change your non-working hours and choose leisure activities that will pay dividends to your overall well-being.
  • Find a daily rhythm that works for you. If you're more creative in the morning, do your work then. Perhaps another time of day works better for you. Figure it out and use the time for your creative pursuits.
  • Alternate between intense work and rest periods.
  • Have an absorbing hobby. {Hallelujah!}
  • Take a break from the digital world, if only for a few hours each week.

There’s much more in the article if you care to delve into it. But my mission today is to give us all permission to goof off more … but in a more productive and beneficial way.

If you have any tips or techniques that you already practice along these lines, please share them with us in the comments. And have an energizing, stress relieving weekend with lots of beneficial leisure time!

PS – Since we all love taking photos of butterflies, I wanted to be sure you didn’t miss this great article on Digital Photography School this week.


AFishGirl said...

Amen to this! I am living proof. I've gone from what used to be a majority of 4 hour shifts. Happy days those were. There was time to do all the other things I love, including rest. It felt balanced. Things changed and my hours were increased and now I do 8 hour shifts. It's a dramatic change to my quality of life. I'm tired, I don't have time to refuel, I feel like I'm either getting ready for work or recovering from work but with not enough time for the latter. My camera sits dormant for days on end. It's also this winter that has made this work change too feel so adversarial. I am grateful for my job in these economic times. I am. And I love the work I do. But I'm a much better person, at work and at home, when I work about half of what I am currently working. No, change that. I am a more whole person, a fulfilled person, a happier person. Having lived the "less work" life for quite a while, I highly recommend it. Wholeheartedly. At the end of the day (and the beginning and middle) I think our whole world works too much. Hold on while I find you a quote that resonates for me...
When asked what surprised him about humanity the most, the Dalai Lama replied:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

I know one can poke holes in this quote (and just read Forbes poking holes in it as I looked for it) but there is something to it.
Okay, off with me. Thanks for the safe haven of this site and thanks Dotti for a post about what you and I often speak of.

kelly said...

dotti have you been spying on me? ;) because this post really speaks to me. i too am working longer hours than i used to and struggle to find time to 'rest'. and my inability to say sometimes only makes it worse. thank you for sharing these insights today because i really needed to hear it. happy weekend! xoxo

kybarb said...

I am yearning to retire from my work and trying to find a way to do it sooner rather than later. Reading this just makes me want to retire even more. Thanks Dottie for reminding me to get outside and enjoy this beautiful spring:)

CarolHart said...

Great article and your photographs are amazing. That pink dogwood blossom...swoon! Well I'm on my way to Arizona for some stress -free fun with Terri Porter & Barbara Hurst! Happy Friday!

terriporter said...

Well, even though I don't work, there still never seems to be enough hours in the day to do everything and still have time for me. I know it's important to my mood and well-being but, as Kelly said, it's hard to say no sometimes. Your photos are just amazing and the dogwoods are spectacular! Wish I could come and sit on that bench with you and take it all in. I love the Dalai Lama quote that Pam shared. I need to have that framed! But, as Carol said, she and I along with Barbara Hurst are getting together for two whole days of doing exactly what we want -- good food, laughter, lots and lots of photography and sharing. I can hardly wait! I know I will be the better for having taken the time for myself. And thanks for this post, Dotti!

Anonymous said...

Great advise Dotti! Im guilty of spending way too much leisure time on my computer...but that is where I play with photoshop and my wacom tablet eek! Its probably the source of all the migraines Ive been getting lately! I have to agree with spending more time in our own much to absorb that it enhances our natural serotonin and melatonin! Thanks for a great post, and as usual your photos are outstanding!

Kim Stevens said...

I may not "work" outside the home, but I have an all time job managing other things and if I don't take the time for myself I have learned, it's a lot harder to manage without stress. So I goof off in nature a lot! :) Those dogwoods are gorgeous!!

Roxi Hardegree said...

Puttsing in my garden, even pulling weeds is some of my best thinking time and productive to boot. Can't wait to check out the butterflies.

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