In 1605, William Camden kickstarted the case for busyness; Yes, the early bird does catch the worm, Bill, but how is that relevant if we don’t eat annelids? Benjamin Franklin, we like a bandwagon too, but this one feels rickety: time isn’t actually money – even when your face is on it. And c’mon, Shakespeare. It wasn’t wasting away the hours that caused King Richard’s life to blow up; it was that he used those hours to commit murder and mayhem.
All these famous productivity proclamations were made before gravity was discovered. We’re expected to believe that prior to understanding why apples fall, we’d proven that harder work equals better results. Colour us dubious.
Work work work work
While television, computers and the internet have been given well-deserved credit for transforming our lives, the humble clock is an underrated game changer. The mass production of timepieces was intrinsically tied to the Industrial Revolution, synchronising transport and labour, bringing precision to ocean navigation, and inspiring the above sayings.
Clocks detached us from the organic flow that had us waking, working and sleeping with the sun. Instead, we began to orchestrate our lives around the movement of two hands. And we’ve never looked back.
Busyness isn’t next to godliness
All this, despite an evolutionary advantage that uniquely positions humans to benefit from idle time. Scientists believe we are the only creatures on earth able to detach ourselves from our surroundings and daydream. However, instead of embracing this incredible gift, we’ve collectively fallen into a Busy Trap. Turns out, we will do almost anything to keep our minds from wandering – including giving ourselves electric shocks.
Unconvinced? Remember the recent
pandemic global experiment in slowing down? During this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to chill, most of us did the opposite. In fact, for knowledge workers, the average workday increased by 48 minutes.
The joke’s on us
Not only is it likely that women were behind some of the most famous quotes about time but the passage of time has also made those quotes irrelevant. In a knowledge economy, it’s no longer hours swapped for money; it’s performance. And performance is directly correlated with idleness. Watch any elite athlete, and you’ll notice their incredible ability to shut down. Those top tennis players sitting with heads in their hands? They’re not exhausted; they’re switching off – a technique widely embraced to supercharge their game.
Work a different kind of muscle
Your brain is a high-performance athlete. It’s not your muscles or lungs you’re conditioning – rather, your prefrontal cortex. Responsible for everything that makes us highly functioning, organised individuals, your frontal lobe is doing a big job. By the end of the year, that little lobe is probably telling you it’s tired. But far from curling up with a good book on holiday, many of us take on the mental load of shopping, organising, and planning.
The outcome? Less holiday and more just a different kind of workday.
So if you need permission to get down with downtime, this is it from your two biggest cheerleaders. And we’ve experienced its benefits. Like you, we’re tough enough to never, ever need a break (😉), but after our last startup, we chose idleness.
The result of that three-month pause? Powrsuit.
How to actually do nothing
We’re not birds, worms are gross, and the devil couldn’t care less what you do with your time. She’s not plotting how to fill idle hands with work; she’s perusing Prada. 👠
Winding down doesn’t mean taking up cleaning, maintenance or entertaining; it means deep relaxation. Ironically, doing nothing takes planning, so our holiday gift to you is taking that task off your hands:
1. Schedule your last workday
Use this ‘wind down’ day to get on top of admin and put a full stop to your work year. This is your chance to clear your plate and make sure you can mentally walk away from the office. Our calendar hacks will help take your to-do list out of your head so you can shut down your computer and temporarily forget it even exists.
We’re huge fans of Weekly Wins: documenting what went well over the last week. Well, friend, you’ve just completed 52 of them. Recognise what you’ve just done. You made it – through a particularly challenging year! Have a delicious beverage and cheers yourself. Far from a feel-good moment, this acknowledgement helps your brain realise that it’s time to rest. 🥂
3. Embrace manic mode (for a limited time)
Some of us struggle to seamlessly pivot to peak relaxation. No stress, tick off some small tasks you’ve been procrastinating on; clear out a cupboard, weed the garden, or get to that photo album you’ve been meaning to complete. It’s natural for your mind to unwind like this, so roll with it for a short while. One thing you can’t do, though? Get a head start on next year. That’ll come soon enough.
4. Banish guilt
When you think, “I should…” or “I must…” – shut it down! You shouldn’t. Remember, it’s essential for productivity that you recharge, even if it means being a mediocre parent! Holidays can be a minefield for boundaries. If you need a reminder: it’s not your job to take on other people’s problems or their work – the most powerful word in your vocabulary is ‘no’.
Give yourself proper do-nothing-at-all downtime – even for a few minutes (or 30 seconds) at a time. It takes practice, so start small! Plug in a great podcast (or your fave music), lie back and close your eyes. And before you go setting a whole new batch of New Year’s Resolutions, remember to make sure you’re setting them for the right reasons.
Less it more. So, cheers to kicking off 2024 as a refreshed and reinvigorated group of change-makers!
30 second action:
One you can complete right now – take five deep breaths; in through your nose, out through your mouth.
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