To Be Productive in Your Work, You Must Take Downtime

Are you disengaged at work? Only 1 in 3 Americans are actively engaged. The irony is that employees are working more hours and powered by more technology than ever.

#Unplug: How to Work Hard and Still Have a Life (Fast Company 2013), takes on the issue of how work and technology are impacting our overall life. The eBook explores how and why to untether yourself from technology throughout the workday, on weekends, and on vacation without undoing your life or career.

The 40-hour workweek is dead. The culprit is the trifecta of increased post-recession employment competition, close interdependency of global markets and perpetual demands for higher productivity. There just doesn’t seem to be enough time.

At the same time, our conditioned desire for evermore seems insatiable. In a study of 1,000 professionals, 9 of 10 said making their personal life a higher priority was important. And yet when asked which they’d take, a $10,000-a-year raise or an hour more each day to spend with their family, 8 of 10 took the cash.

A Word-Wide Phenomenon

Unfortunately, this is a global phenomenon. European countries are struggling to keep their workweek standards. In Japan, there were 160 official cases of Karōshi, or “death from overwork,” and another 43 people committed work-related suicide.

Paradoxically, technology was supposed to help us be more productive, yet it has enabled being on 24/7/365:

  • 79% of 18- to 44-year-olds have their phone on or near them for 22 hours of the day—IDC
  • 72% of parents use a mobile device during the family meal—NPR
  • 67% of people routinely check phones even when their phone is not ringing or vibrating—Pew Research

We can’t blame it all on work; it’s a matter of personal accountability.

What is Driving Our Obsessive Behavior?

#Unplug unveils an obscure suspect: Fear. That is, fear of missing out, fear of real-time market or competitor knowledge and the illusive fear of living your life. A psychologist at the National Center for Preventive and Stress Medicine who counseled others on the impacts of stress was blind to his own. When confronted by his young son, he embarked on deep soul searching. Asking himself why he’s so driven that he overworks, he finally realized, “I’m afraid of being a father.”

Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that if you fit into this category, you will deny it. If you do accept it, you’ll deceptively convince yourself that you’re only hurting yourself. Most of us won’t change until a crisis occurs, but you don’t have to wait for that. #Unplug dares us to take time away from work and technology, in order to live simpler lives—and ultimately be more productive in life and at work.


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