Tuesday, November 10, 2015

‘There are 24 usable hours in every day,’ goes the old adage that’s become the mantra of many workaholics still checking their work e-mails at 10pm at night. The ever-increasing mobility and interconnectivity of technology might have afforded us more convenience now than ever before, but it’s come at the cost of our downtime.

“We live in an ‘always-on’ society, where people are expected to be on online and active at all hours of the day. But, in fact, stepping away from our screens and taking a proper rest is just as important for our productivity,” says Warwick Scott-Rodger, Head of Dialdirect Insurance.

But while we all dream of being able to stay in bed for a few extra minutes (or let’s be honest; hours), or dedicate an entire afternoon to catching up on marathons of our favourite shows, there’s a growing movement driven by A-type supermen and women who use social media to passively ‘time shame’ others.

“Time shaming,” explains Scott-Rodger, “is a term for the guilt we feel when we let other people make us feel like we’re not using our time as efficiently as possible. But everyone has different priorities, responsibilities and schedules. Only you know how much downtime you need to stay at your best.”

It can be hard though, to maintain this level-headed mindset in amongst a deluge of posts and updates from peers reminding you that they got up at 5am to hit the gym, study for their master’s degree, drive their three kids to school, do a full day’s work, attend a networking event and be home in time to cook a paleo-approved feast for the whole family. Meanwhile you’ve been utterly inert, scrolling through your Facebook feed for more hours than you care to confess.

Which is precisely why Scott-Rodger defends the humble duvet day by quoting Scott Halford, a long-time adviser to Fortune 500 executive teams in the United States, popular speaker and author of ‘Activate Your Brain’ in saying, “It’s true, our brains don’t do well by staying active for hours at a time. We need to build regular breaks into our working days, and make an effort to spend time away from work. A lot of important insights can come to people when they’re away from the office, because their brains have had some time to properly recharge.”

Scott-Rodger insists that we need to avoid the ‘time shaming’ trap by making sure we get the most out of doing nothing on our days off, instead of feeling guilty about not ticking 10 things  off the ‘to do’ list for that day. Good ways to relax can include for a long walk in nature, meditating, napping, reading, doing something creative, or just relaxing in front of our favourite series. “The most important thing,” he insists, “is to step away from your work completely. Give your mind a real chance to revive and recover, so that it can better focus on the tasks at hand when you do need to get back to work.”

“According to Complete Intelligence (Halford’s company), an hour of focused time is worth four hours of distracted time,” he concludes. When it’s put into a simple equation like that, taking some decent downtime can seem like a downright investment in your productivity.

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