Manali Desai The Worth of ‘Less is More’ December 15, 2017

Recently, someone asked me, “On a normal day, how many hours of work do you “actually” put in?” That led me down a train of thought I hadn’t really thought about before. My working hours are 10 am to 6 pm (like of most working people) but during these hours, how many hours am I actually putting in into work?

Every few hours (sometimes minutes) I get distracted from work and spend a few minutes either checking my Facebook, Instagram or chatting up with my co-worker (whoever happens to be sitting next to me). I’m just that kind of a person, someone who needs small and big breaks in between work. And I guess, we all do at times.

So, is this what we would call ‘wasting time’ then? Because sometimes I’m able to write better or even write more in terms of quantity within a short period after such breaks. When I asked a friend of mine the same question he said, “For me, it’s only the lunch break. I hardly peel my eyes off the system otherwise.”

I was quite surprised on hearing this, and no, it wasn’t just because he did not take breaks from work. It was also because I had rarely heard about him getting appreciated at work and even getting a decent promotion in last few years. Why wasn’t it that a person who hardly took a break from work getting appreciated? And why was his work never getting acknowledged like of others?

On the other hand, someone like me, who put in maybe around 5-6 hours a day into actual work was going places.

We are taught from childhood that our attention spans are low so it is quite natural to get distracted after doing the same thing for a certain time. I have also noticed that I indulge in this act of ‘doing nothing’ or ‘wasting time’ despite loving my job and work. I mean, I’m sure we all do this and that time.

And aren’t we also taught, “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy?” From a story titled as Where Ideas Happen, it can be deduced that we are actually more likely to think upon or chance upon an idea when we are not ‘working’ in the conventional sense.

I can vouch for this personally as most thoughts about what to write and how to write come to my mind when I’m in a relaxed mood, either reading, listening to music or sometimes even when hanging out with friends. In short, engaging in an activity that I like makes my productivity better in the bigger picture.

The best example of this is Archimedes’ “Eureka” moment. Trying to further understand this notion, I asked my mother, she is a school teacher, about how she comes up with new ideas on what to teach and how to teach her students and she said,

“Oh! That’s simple. You and your brother have been my muse all these years. You never knew it but I learnt quite a few things from which I taught you in the years when you were growing up. I simply relate life to work and I’m able to come out with solutions and ideas. And also, I try not to think of it all the time. An occasional walk in the park or lying around reading a book all day lands my mind on ideas which would otherwise have been impossible to think of.”

This was quite a revelation for me so I further asked her out of curiosity, “So taking a break from it actually helps you improve your work?” She immediately chirped, “Oh yes! I would otherwise go mad, most definitely!”

My interest in the subject was now at another level and I wanted to get more inputs so I asked my dad the same and he said, “Your mom and I are very different. But what she says about taking a break once in a while is quite true. For me, it has always been about doing one thing at a time and being there 100 percent. Also, I never count the number of hours I give to a task rather the time it requires as per my capacity. Maybe that is why most times I’m able to give in my best.”

There’s that sweetness, you realise, of doing nothing. Which in other words, attributes to the less is more, in case of productivity and creativity. Less is more, here, connects with working for fewer hours to come up with originality and quality, in case of productivity, and with thinking a lot less to reach ideation phase and come up with innovative ideas, in case of creativity.

It comes as no surprise but shock that a study revealed “in the UK, office workers had just ‘2 hours and 53 minutes’ of productivity out of working for eight hours.”

Interestingly, this BBC article suggests that in most countries, the number of working hours though lesser in comparison to others have shown better productivity rate overall. The case itself compels us to work a lot less(er), just the way the story title reads.

How then do we define our work efficiency and productivity? Because all this made me realise that the less time I put in, the more I’ll be able to give out. And I might even be working while I’m doing everyday mundane tasks. Work time cannot be restrained to hours and to a particular place.

The fewer hours one spends on thinking, the more is desired to be achieved.

Virginia Woolf puts it best, “Drawing pictures was an idle way of finishing an unprofitable morning’s work. Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

It all boils down to this, that it’s not always what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). The worth of ‘less is more’ can never be compromised rather it is here to stay for years, for decades, for us, with us.

A preserver of my thoughts and a nurturer of self-happiness, I am Manali, a believer in all's well that ends well. I cherish the act of writing and the process of thinking. Loner to some and warm to others, I swing between moods based on my hunger pangs. Traveler, reader,music lover and foodie are some adjectives which can be used to describe me.

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