Many of us think that when in our leisure time we read stuff on the internet or on social media, we are not “working”. Such distinctions between work and leisure are actually meaningless says this piece from David Greene which is based on a new book called “Do Nothing: How to Break Away from Overworking, Overdoing and Underliving”. The author of the book, Celeste Headlee, has a very interesting point of view which she backs up with solid research.
“When you collapse on the couch after a long workday and start scrolling through social media, you’re not doing your tired brain any favors, says author Celeste Headlee.
“Your brain sees your phone as work,” she explains. “To your brain, any time that phone is visible, part of your brain is expending part of its energy on preparing for a notification to come in. It’s like a runner at the starting gate.”
Researchers have found that simply having your phone nearby can tax cognition. “You’re carrying your work literally everywhere,” Headlee says. “As far as your brain and body are concerned, you’re never taking time off.””
Overworking your brain hits productivity and creativity with the latter arguably being the only way any of us can stand out in a competitive global market for talent: “Headlee started digging into the research and found evidence that the brain works best when it can alternate between focused labor (not multitasking!) and rest. Because even when it’s “resting,” your brain is busy doing critical tasks. In fact, the brain is nearly as active during periods of rest as it is during periods of focus, Headlee says.
“It’s sifting through memories,” she explains. “It’s making new connections. It’s doing surprising things because it’s not focused on a task. So that’s where a lot of creativity comes from and innovation … making unexpected connections.””
So how do we break this rut of overwork, exhaustion and unhappiness? Ms Headlee comes to our rescue with practical tips: “Headlee found that simply tracking her time helped make her more mindful of the way she was spending it. When she started keeping a diary of her days, she admits, she was surprised to see how much online shopping she was doing.
“Once you subtract sleep, and work, and eating, and commuting, and all those other things, you have probably somewhere between five or six hours a day at your disposal to do with as you please,” Headlee says. “If you’re using up half of that idly paging through Facebook and ‘liking’ things, it might come as a surprise to you that you have more time than you think.”
To try to reclaim that time, Headlee has tried to limit the hours she spends engaging with email and social media.
“I took almost every app off my phone,” she says, and she only checks email once per hour.
She also does an “untouchable day” each week — a day she spends entirely off social media and email.”

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