Our jobs are an important and valuable part of life. Finding work that we can be passionate about that makes us excited each day is also key in finding balance and happiness. We find value in accomplishing tasks and being as productive as possible. However it turns out that one of the best ways to keep that momentum going is the opposite of what we might believe. We don’t have to find more hours in the day to pack in more work time. We need to make time to stop working.
It’s easy to blur the line between our job tasks and down time at home. The moment we have a chance to stop, we feel guilty. The time could be spent better, right? We check email, or start making checklists for tomorrow. We reply to messages that pop up on our phones. Technology has made it easier than ever for us to be reachable and connected to our jobs. But just because we can do work, doesn’t mean we should.
This constant need to be “reachable” causes us to miss out on living in the present moment. It creates a distraction as our attention is drawn away from relaxing to the stress of our jobs. Our relationships suffer. We make excuses for not being able to sleep in, for never being able to finish a book, for not having time to exercise or take a long walk. Our need to fill time with busy work causes stress to skyrocket and overall health to decline.
Even when we’re at work we find it difficult to step away from the desk. We eat lunch in front of the computer screen or scroll social media instead of mentally and physically checking out. It seems as though we are being more productive by never stepping away, but in reality we’re just taking longer than we should to perform simple tasks. We aren’t accomplishing more, we are simply filling time that could be better used to rest.
A number of studies have shown that letting your brain take a break actually makes you more productive. The down time lets you recharge your batteries rather than burn out. Stepping out of the office for a long walk or to read the newspaper at a coffee shop gives your mind the chance to stop and reorganize.
Make it a point to turn off alerts on your phone when leaving the office for the day. Allow the weekend to be full of laziness without guilt – you work hard, you deserve it! Leave the laptop at the office so that you aren’t tempted. Embrace the time you have to relax, as the time is just as well spent!
[Credit: Goldhill, Olivia. “The Psychological Importance of Wasting Time.” Quartz.]