Jun 252013

You know what they say about all work and no play. Being totally absorbed by our work makes us boring boys and girls to those around us, in the sense that we’re unavailable to play – that’s true – but this doesn’t necessarily matter, as long as we’re fulfilled by what we’re doing. If these people are your friends, rather than your dependents, they have to accept you as you are and if you’re more excited by your work than you are by going out or whatever it is they want you to do, I say go with your passion and don’t feel you have to adapt to other people’s expectations of you.

But this is a relatively rare scenario and not what I want to discuss today. A more common situation is one in which someone pushes him/herself to work all hours out of duty or fear. We’ve touched on this before when talking about procrastination and I’d like to remind you that this way lies only exhaustion and misery.

If you’re working through a long project, you need regular breaks, not just for rest (which is vital) but also for recreation. Taking time out to change your ideas and focus on something else refreshes the part of your brain that’s working on the project, so that you will have more energy and be more creative. By stopping to play sometimes, you will actually achieve more work.

So why do some people insist on working themselves into the ground? It may be partly because the fact that all work and no play makes Jack a less productive boy is counter-intuitive, but it’s also for deeper psychological reasons. Perhaps they don’t want to be seen to be taking time off because they’re afraid people will think they’re skiving. If this is a worry for you, have the confidence to operate in the way that suits you best and let them judge you not by method but by results. Or perhaps you have internalised this injunction and become your own slave-driver. In this case, I implore you to look at the big picture: you’re punishing yourself twice over, once by forcing yourself to work on when you should be recharging your batteries and again by not allowing yourself to achieve your potential because you’re always stressed and worn out.

Even if you’re not ready to accept that life is for living now as well as in the future, do take on board the pragmatic argument for rest and recuperation, that far from slowing you down overall, it will increase and improve your productivity. All work and no play is a recipe for ill health, not success.

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