Often we don’t succeed because we direct all of our energies to only “apparent” productivity.
In 1850, the French economist Frederic Bastiat published his famous essay “What is seen and what is not seen. In it he criticizes the “bad” economists, for whom only the primary effect is important, not the long-range consequences.
Bastiat uses the metaphor of a broken window. A boy breaks a window in a bakery, and the owner has to hire a glazier. In this way the glazier becomes richer-he has money to spend. It would seem that the economy wins, but this is only what we see. And the invisible consequences are that with the money that went to the services of the craftsman, the baker could have bought something useful.
According to Bastiat, “bad” economists pay attention to the visible and think we need to “smash the windows” to stimulate the economy. Wise economists, on the other hand, realize that this only brings losses.
It seems obvious: smashing windows is counterproductive. Yet most of us use the logic of the “bad” economists from Bastiat’s metaphor. We focus on the visible aspects of productivity and subtly undermine the invisible ability to do important work.
Imagine a man who stays late in the office every day to show everyone what a team player he is. The only thing this leads to is that he doesn’t get enough sleep and becomes lethargic. He misses the opportunity to spend time with colleagues he might have gotten to know better and who might recommend him for new projects or promotions. He doesn’t have time to think, so he doesn’t come up with brilliant ideas that could propel him forward. However, he still blames all of his work failures on his lack of performance.
So what invisible factors affect our productivity and what habits, often perceived as laziness, actually produce results?
1. Getting enough sleep
Productivity fans bow down to early risers. Waking up at 7:00 is no longer enough. You have to get up at 6:00, 5:00 or even 4:30. But we all have different biorhythms, so being a lark is not a good idea for everyone. For many, it throws off their internal clock and leads to lack of sleep.
Sleep is a major lazy habit necessary for high productivity. Studies show that it positively affects cognitive abilities, improves memory and mood, and its absence is devastating.
If you start to nag during the day and you have a chance to take a nap, do it. The main thing is not to overdo it, otherwise you’ll feel wrecked for the rest of your waking hours. Try a simple tip: fall asleep with a spoon in your hand, trying to keep it a few inches off the floor. When you start to sink too deeply into sleep, your muscles will relax, you’ll drop the spoon and the sound of it falling will wake you up.
Another way to cheer up is to drink a cup of coffee and go to bed for 15-20 minutes. This combination works because the level of adenosine, which makes us sleepy, decreases after sleep, it ceases to act on the receptors, and its place is taken by caffeine, which cheers us up.
2. Walking in the fresh air
Another consequence of giving priority to “seeing things” is that we devalue the time we spend thinking. From the outside it seems like laziness, because no one knows that you’re actually not just sitting in the park and staring into space, you’re thinking about ideas.
Thinking during long walks outdoors is one of the most productive things you can do. Albert Einstein went for long walks and thought a lot about his theory of relativity. If he had focused on the quantity of scientific work rather than the quality of it, giving the appearance of being productive, our ideas about the universe would be much poorer.
3. Сhatting with colleagues about work
Chattering near the water cooler is a clear sign of laziness. Except when it isn’t.
Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber, authors of The Enigma of the Mind, believe that humans have not evolved enough to properly think things through in isolation. Our powers of deduction, logic, and discernment are designed to win arguments, not establish truth.
When we ponder problems on our own, it is much harder for us to find the right solution. Many ideas that seem unattainable alone gain potential when discussed. So talking to colleagues about work problems is rarely a waste of time.
4. Saying “no.”
“If you want a task done, give it to a busy person.” I think there’s a hidden meaning to this phrase. Busy people are the ones who have a hard time saying no when someone bids for their time. That’s why they are busy.
I like the approach of Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman. According to him, real high-level physics work is very time-consuming. And the scientist found a way to save himself from people who distract him by saying he’s lazy. “I invented the myth that I’m irresponsible. I tell everybody I don’t do anything. When people ask me for a favor, my answer is, ‘No, I’m irresponsible.'”
5. Taking a vacation.
“If you love what you do, every day turns into a vacation.” Sounds good in theory, but the opposite is true in practice. Even if you adore what you do, you need a vacation to distract yourself and break the habitual patterns of thinking that make you dwell on work.
Travel isn’t the only way to broaden your horizons, but being able to be in uncharted places (physically and mentally) keeps you from getting attached to the same habits. Our routine often prevents us from finding fresh, creative solutions. New experiences are needed so that we don’t become frozen in old thinking and automatic actions.
6. Don’t do things you don’t like
Sometimes the hardest and most productive people get little results. All because their patient attitude toward boring work prevents them from quitting a thankless task that is not worth the effort.
Almost everyone who has done anything of value has done work that was meaningful and satisfying to them. Perhaps not all the time and not without effort. But years spent in a hated profession is a dubious recipe for success.
To start doing what you love, sometimes all you have to do is stop doing what you hate.