What do you think of that when you put less, it gets you more? There is a lot but everything.
‘Less is more,’ the phrase is thrown often just like that. Most times it’s harder to get the meaning of it as easier it sounds. What makes more when it’s less, is what strikes the mind often, but then again, if you look at the bigger picture, it certainly has a meaning. And it’s worth it. Not for the short term, but a long-term gain.
In this mad rat race of ours, wherein which each one of us is clocking time of the number of hours of work we slog for, we forget something. We forget that one needs breathing space. We need a moment to relax, to call it our own when we do a lil bit for ourselves, recharge, refocus, reinforce, and then move on to the next bit of work.
No one is saying we should not work. Or we should put in lesser bits of ourselves in it. We do not tune in that in most circumstances of our lives, it is the philosophy of ‘less is more’ which truly works. If we do not take these vital oxygen moments to spare to ponder, reflect, invigorate ourselves, we may just end up dead. Actually dead; this is what came through in Japan when it was found that people actually underwent ‘karōshi’ which can be translated as ‘overwork death’.
And, even if one does not actually die, what does participating in this rat race make us? Perhaps, a rat, that’s what we end up as at the end of our innings. Interestingly, that ‘less is more’ is a fundamental basis for all that exists takes time to register in us. It is this very thought which should sink in us when we think of the hundreds of aspects which make up our lives.
There is a very interesting term called ‘active rest’, which means that we actually are resting, but not really resting in its true-blue connotation.
For instance, there are studies galore to prove that we, as a human race, need to pause. We need to unwind, to relax, to reflect, and then of course work some more. What we do not need is a continuous plodding on the grind-mill and then fading out due to complete exhaustion. There is a very interesting term called ‘active rest’ which is doing the rounds on the corporate circuit these days. This means that we actually are resting, but not really resting in its true-blue connotation. It also means that we are ‘doing nothing’, but again, not really doing nothing. Does this sound totally inappropriate?
Well, take listening to music, for instance. If you have completely switched off from the world and all that it stands for and are paying attention to the strains of music, you are actively resting. You are allowing the melodious overtunes to seep into your system, soothe it, and perhaps making memories for another day. However, if you are actually not even listening to the melody around you, not even processing it, not even making a mental image or notes of its rendition, you are actually asleep and numb to the world. Note the difference between the two states you may exist in. So well, active rest is something which is energizing your creative juices inside of you. It is actually manna for nourishing the soul. It is the vitamin pill you need to truly bounce back to a highly productive state.
To drive in home this point about the ‘sweetness of doing nothing’, we have other stories to tell. As heard through BBC Capital, take a meta-analysis which proved that working long hours upped the instances of coronary heart disease by no less than 40%. The same holds true for increasing the risk of stroke as well. In addition, working for more than eleven hours each day may enhance the chances of suffering from depression by 2.5 times.
In America, a research work done on full-time workers revealed that people who took fewer than ten days of their paid holidays off in a year had a bit more than one in a three chance for getting a bonus or a pay rise over a period of three years. And those, on the flip side, who took more than ten days off in their given 365 days? Well, the statistics showed that they had a two in a three chance for the same.
What does this prove? Does it prove that we need to waste time and not work? Or does it actually come through that taking time out and then coming back with a re-nourished mind, body, and heart will actually egg us on to perform in a more conducive, efficient, and productive manner? We would be far better off, believe you me, if we believed in the latter theory.
This is because they actually have lesser time assigned to it. They have more time to recreate, to dwell over the various nuances which make up their lives, to revel in what the good Mother Nature has given them, to actually feel the positive side of providence. They have more of a chance to come in the know of the happiness which our lives have to offer us, the blessing we have to be alive, and so on. And while one might wonder that they might be ‘wiling away their time’, they are actually gathering up real, pulsating, throbbing energy levels to tackle their work with more vigor, more force, more gusto.
To knock in this ‘feel of things’, we have a rejoinder coming in from Norway. As the story on BBC Capital suggests, an average US employee works for about 4.6 hours each week more than a Norwegian. However, when it comes to GDP, Norway workers contribute the equivalent of $78.70 each week as compared to the $69.60 of the US workers. Say what? Does working lesser hours each week actually mean you are more productive? Do the numbers, facts, and factorials not tell us this? One can go on and on with such readings. They really and actually do provide us with viable data and information to make an informed decision on this matter.
A survey, for instance, on 2,000 full-time office workers in the UK revealed that they were productive as such only for two hours and 53 minutes out of an eight-hour workday. The rest of the time was squandered away in other deemed as ‘fruitless activities;’ which, in a clearer and more insightful way, actually paved the path to bring in more of ‘active participation’ in the so-called working hours of the day.
Even science has an interesting footnote in this entire debate of ours. The DMN or the default mode network of our system, incidentally, is that part of our brain which activates when we are doing ‘nothing’. Interestingly, it is this very stance which actually helps in memory retention and in trying to think up plans for the future. If this mode ‘switches off’, so to say, we would be poorer in terms of various parameters which could even extend to comprehending our own selves and our nature, acting in an ethical manner, recognizing and understanding the consequences of various life events and situations, et al.
When it comes to this core issue, it is not just time or energy which shows up that less is actually more. In effect, even when it comes to real-time finances, even money at times could actually stand up as less being more. If we have more of it, we tend to squander it away. We may even think of it as being more ‘freely available’ to us and not wish to get more of it. Or else, we may condition our mentalities that since we do have some reserves of it, why do we not risk it in a venture which may not be the best thing to do in the circumstances.
Having said all of the above, it is important to point out that we, truly hardworking humans that is, do not find it a simple matter to ‘do nothing’ as such. If we are asked to actually sit still for even six to fifteen minutes, we would be very uncomfortable in our own clothing.
It is wise to indulge in activities which make us ‘actively rest’.
These could be doing simple tasks like meditating for a few minutes, even doing a simple cross-stitch pattern, making a sketch, or writing down the idle meanderings of the mind.
With such ‘work’ going on, or DMN stays on the alert and engaged; it gives us the hardcore matter to be able to indulge in a reflection of our lives. We get the answers to certain issues befuddling us, and we are able to think through certain bothersome which have been draining the energy-giving elixir from us.
At this point, it is essential to give a deeper voice and intonation to our real ethos of ‘less is more’. Even when we sit down to study, it is with more focus and concentration that we should do our learning and yearning. If we have our books open in front of us with our minds idling away in faraway lands, does it bode or augur well? Obviously, it does not.
Rather if we take our much-desired ‘time out’ for a yoga session or a tryst with our friends down the lane for an hour, it will help us surcharge back to our grinding our studies’ grill with a renewed push and pull. And it will be far more positive and more rewarding an experience both in terms of the real value of the effort and the time we have set aside for this work.
‘Less is more’ works well as a basic guideline even when it comes to the vista of relationships. It is a formula which saves us in the face of wrongs happening around and to us. Of course, we should give our ‘be all, end all,’ to those who matter to us. Those who are our near and dear ones deserve the very best quality and quantity time of ours. However, what happens to those relationships which have gone sour, gone toxic, or are pure poison for us? We should immediately withdraw our reservoirs of energy and feeling from them. Again, it is the lesser time spent on them which will help us overcome them and the bitterness from them.
Thus, ‘less is more’ actually is a concept which deserves more attention than what it is presently getting. Its true meaning does in no way mean that we should put in a lesser quantum of strength and attention which our work actually merits, or even that the resources we have at our disposal should be scarcer than what they are. What it means is that…
…that the power with which we work or the punch that we give to what we should do with our time and even the base which fathoms our existence and our profiles should be such that it does not have a stopwatch on it. Not now, not yesterday, not tomorrow, or at any other given time in our space and time. Not in the US, Australia, or in India, or even in god-forsaken Timbucktoo!
The real lesson of the story to take back home is that we should be more ‘involved’ in materialistic as well as non-materialistic nuances in what we do, in what we strive to thrive on. And that for in order for this to happen effectively, we need to prize ourselves and whatever it takes to draw the best out of ourselves.
Crafted with brevity for select stories to make certain you see what others don't; sent every Friday
Two exclusive fortnightly newsletters, sent on Saturday alternately
a) Reel and Real with Rony Patra
b) Mixer with Ayush Garg