More Productivity from Idleness

by | Nov 30, 2020

There is a relentless pressure on individuals and organisations to produce more and do it faster for longer. In the knowledge economy, doing less is also a viable strategy to be productive. 

You often find that the best ideas and insights to solve the toughest problems come when you’re not working. You might be reading, connecting with nature, walking the dog or watching a show. 

Quality of thinking and insight is a scarce and high value asset for organisations and careers today. Employers can always access technical capabilities, but good ideas generated by knowledge workers at the top of their game are always in demand. 

Constant distraction and a frenetic pace without pause are not conducive to excellence for knowledge work. You need breathing space to reflect. 

Leaders and managers who habitually roll from one meeting to the next can’t do a great job of developing their team, member or customer relationships or address new opportunities or threats.

Working deeply for sustained periods is important to perform at world class levels, but that doesn’t mean you should block out your whole week.

Recent research suggests that the future of the 20th Century construct of a five-day working week could be numbered anyway. Most people would take a shorter work week if their employer offered it, but most also don’t want a pay cut for the privilege. 

I suspect it’s the belief that you can create equal or more value by working less.

Developing personal and organisational habits that help increase the volume of work outputs are important. Unfortunately, we tend to allocate the extra time that we create into producing more volume. 

A commodity mindset was fine for industrial age factories, but it has less relevance in the knowledge economy where value is created through ideas and working with complexity and disruptive change. 

Allocate some of your productivity gains to create space for idleness. Discretionary time is a form of wealth, meaning you need a lot of breathing space to be truly wealthy.

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