The Lazy Way to Top Personal Productivity

A reputed professor and author of several excellent textbooks and countless scholarly papers was once asked by his students what was the secret to his Herculean personal productivity. This is a typical question that many people ask to famous people, but often get the same mundane answers like hard work, passion, energy, perseverance, etc. But this unique professor gave a different, but puzzling, answer that surprised everyone. He said the secret to his personal productivity was in giving plenty of rest to his mind and body whenever it wanted. And he added that he rarely worked continuous long hours, and often did not do any meaningful work for weeks and sometimes worked only for a couple of hours on many days. Yet, standing in front of those students was this professor who had easily accomplished ten times more than any other professor, while completing the same amount of official obligations as his fellow colleagues. So how was this professor able to achieve so much while claiming to work fewer hours than others? To understand his secret first have a look at some common beliefs people have about productivity. 

1. Popular belief is, to achieve a lot of personal output, one should work 18 hours a day 365 days a year, be always active, follow strict time discipline, learn multitasking, sleep less, and so on. The modern society in which we live is highly superficial giving an impression that only restlessness and busyness are the keys to be a supremely productive person. You know the type, ‘I get up at 4:00 am and work till 11:00 pm’ kind of super busy people the media portrays and glorifies nowadays. Popular examples are those who appear to be perpetually busy attending endless meetings, seminars, talking about challenges, going bonkers on their blackberries, always connected online, always talking on the mobile, partying non stop, etc., giving an impression that this is what peak personal productivity all about.

2. Too many people mistakenly believe that it is indeed possible to work for 18 hours everyday, and often want to impress others with their jaw dropping hard working ability. Good rest is often mistaken for laziness and procrastination. This is because we are constantly bombarded from all directions by the media, business houses, advertisements, commercials, etc., that rest and relaxation is out of fashion, and one should always be moving at rocket speed because the competition is in hot pursuit. So there is not a moment to lose and hence one should work non stop as many dumb TV commercials portray using reputed personalities peddling some fancy product.

The Reality: While the above beliefs and scares are true to some extent, it is wrong to assume they are the correct methods to be a supremely productive person. You do more harm than good by exerting yourself physically and mentally non stop. In fact the secret to achieve supreme productivity is exactly as the professor described, and that is giving yourself plenty of rest periodically. 

1. The greatest achievers in any field have all utilized the power of ample rest to achieve what they have achieved. It is impossible to be consciously active mentally (or physically) non stop because we are limited by human scale limitations of physical and mental strengths. In reality people who force themselves to work long non stop hours will only be doing a lousy job with poor time management and fatigue quality output. It is only ample rest that allows people to deliver astonishing amounts of productivity and not non-stop activity.

2. When you are tackling any important activity or project that is expected to take many hours or days do not make the mistake of attempting it non stop. Take a mini mental vacation. Give yourself periodic breaks and switch off completely to give your intuitive right brain the chance to come up with its own suggestions. The idea behind this switching off is that when you return to it with fresh eyes you will see many ways in which it can be improved. But if you spend many hours working on it continuously, you lose the ability to detect obvious mistakes and errors.

3. Learn to listen to stop signals from your body and mind, and stop the moment it tells you it is tired. The stop signals that you get are simple things like body aches, eye strains, aimless drifting of concentration, irritability, committing mistakes, etc., which most people ignore. But they are all powerful signals that tell you work is now going to deteriorate and your human batteries need a recharge. It is only when you respect your body’s signals that it will reward you with good ideas and quality work. But if you force it to work non stop then it will punish you by making you produce lousy output. In fact, working long hours on any task drains the body and mind of all fresh juices that give you good ideas and speed.

4. Acting busy, having less sleep and restlessness are the favourite hobbies of people who of people who tell lies, have misaligned priorities, or are physiologically breaking down. The correct term for this hyper activity is called mania and one of its indicators is believing that only a few hours of sleep is enough. But it is only through ample rest for your mind, body and spirit that you can achieve a lot. Managing and saving your energy is as important as saving money or fuel. For example take a hypothetical case of having to cover a thousand kilometres on foot. If you try to walk or run non stop then you can never reach there because you will burnout within an hour. But if you walk slowly and take ample rest on the way then you can eventually reach a thousand miles after some weeks or months.

Finally, we can conclude this chapter with a quote from Mark Twain who said, ‘God created man on the last day when he was tired.’ 

Article Author - Thejendra B.S

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