We often clear our workstations or e-mail, but we seldom do that with our minds.
In today’s corporate world we put so much stock in outperforming others, in putting in longer hours at the office or by working harder, that it seems that we’ve taken the Olympics motto ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger) a bit too literally. There seems to be a perception that ours is a world of hyper-competition, a world of matsya nyaya, where the strong devour the weak.
Even if this perception is accurate, isn’t our response still too extreme? One outdoes competition by being smarter, by initiating better responses rather than by putting in more hours, by missing vacations, by spending less time with friends.
In a recent article for Psychology Today, Emma Seppala, associate director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University, not only suggests attacking the problem in very different ways but also observes that taking time off actually makes you much more productive.
Quoting from many studies, Seppala observes that overwork often doesn’t end in success; that too much self-discipline is taxing and, over time, actually leads to willpower fatigue; and, that too much focus can actually hurt our creative problem-solving skills. We often clear our workstations or e-mail, but we seldom do that with our minds. She suggests two ways by which we can actually break the pattern of overwork and become “more efficient and effective by working less.”
When do we get moments of insight or creativity, Seppala asks. It’s often not at work. It might be in the shower, while walking, listening to music or relaxing in any other way. “Things seem to fall into place and just “click”—we have an “AHA” moment. The trick to self-mastery actually lies in the opposite of control: Effortlessness, relaxation and well-being,” she observes.
Go out of your way to be kind and help others, that, Seppala says, is a great way to stop focusing so damn hard and to enhance your positive mood. “Research shows its good for your mental and physical health, you’ll live longer [and] be happier…,” she observes.
When was the last time you were truly creative?