The compelling case for working a lot less
When I moved to Rome from Washington, DC, one sight struck me more than any ancient column or grand basilica: people doing nothing.
Iâ€™d frequently glimpse old women leaning out of their windows, watching people pass below, or families on their evening strolls, stopping every so often to greet friends. Even office life proved different. Forget the rushed desk-side sandwich. Come lunchtime, restaurants filled up with professionals tucking into proper meals.
Of course, ever since Grand Tourists began penning their observations in the seventeenth century, outsiders have stereotyped the idea of Italian â€˜indolenceâ€™. And it isnâ€™t the whole story. The same friends who headed home on their scooters for a leisurely lunch often returned to the office to work until 8pm.
Even so, the apparent belief in balancing hard work withÂ il dolce far niente,Â the sweetness of doing nothing, always struck me. After all, doing nothing appears to be the opposite of being productive. And productivity, whether creative, intellectual or industrial, is the ultimate use of our time.
As we fill our days with more and more â€˜doingâ€™, many of us are finding that going non-stop isnâ€™t the apotheosis of productivity. It is its adversary
But as we fill our days with more and more â€˜doingâ€™, many of us are finding that non-stop activity isnâ€™t the apotheosis of productivity. It is its adversary.
Researchers are learning that it doesnâ€™t just mean that the work we produce at the end of a 14-hour day is of worse quality than when weâ€™re fresh. This pattern of working also undermines our creativity and our cognition. Over time, it can make us feel physically sick â€“ and even, ironically, as if we have no purpose.