If you feel like fainting at the sight of your to-dos, you’re not alone.
When tasks and assignments pile up, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. And then there are also the countless emails, the phone calls, the distractions in the office and interruptions…
One would think that filling every free minute on the schedule is the most effective way to be more productive and get everything done.
It’s not always the case though.
In fact, having some “empty” moments in your schedule could be more helpful. In this article, we’ll try to understand what being productive really means – and the secret power of unproductive time.
Fighting burnout in the workplace
A Gallup 2018 study of 7,500 full-time employees found that 23 percent of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44 percent reported feeling burned out sometimes.
Work-related stress is damaging people’s health. Not to mention, it increases costs for companies in terms of poor quality work, and insurance costs and employee turnover.
The practical causes of burnout may vary, but there seems to be a common denominator: we’re overworked.
But what does being productive really mean?
Being productive isn’t simply a matter of getting things out of the way as quickly as possible.
It should be more of a way of working smart by making the best use of time and dedicating it to the tasks that really matter.
Working longer hours doesn’t necessarily mean working productively: when it comes to working smart, the quality of work trumps the quantity. This shift in our mindset can help us better manage our daily schedules.
What is unproductive time (and why you need it)
If working smart is equivalent of quality, not quantity, then your daily tasks should not be packed to the last minute available.
I know that daily work requires sometimes requires proceeding at a steady pace.
This is why you should free some time on your schedule for “unproductive” time, which means that do not immediately affect your tasks and to-dos, but will have a positive effect on your performance and your sanity.
#1- Have a break
This is not only the tagline of chocolate snack. It’s actually a necessary, quick productivity hack.
Take a break to disconnect your brain, have a walk and stretch your legs (your body will really thank you for that!), socialize with your coworkers, or just let your mind wander.
It may sound counterintuitive, but in the busiest of times, stopping and resting will help you get more done.
#2- Tidy up and declutter your space
We all heard the story that a messy desk is the sign of a creative mind. But there’s a line between untidiness and chaos.
So, from time to time, you should stop and clean up your desk, your office, your computer desktop.
The time you spend on this seemingly menial task gives you an opportunity to unplug your brain (see above), and reorganize your stuff so you won’t have paper flying around or important documents going missing.
#3- Get creative
Save time on your schedule for creativity. There are obviously a lot of people who do creative work as part of their daily duties.
I’m talking about getting creative in stuff that isn’t necessarily work-related. Did you know that simply doodling on a piece of paper can improve your brain connections and make you more productive?
#4- Take time for self-development
Time spent on yourself is never wasted. Having some time for self-development is a must in today’s fast-paced world, where the workforce is fluid and moving rapidly and interdisciplinary skills are required by employers.
You could use the time to learn a new skill, watch an inspiring TED talk or read an interesting article, or try to know more about your field, or have a side project – as long as your boss is OK with it and it doesn’t become an excuse not to do your actual work.
Here at Timeneye, for example, each of us has a dedicated amount of time a month that we call “Self-growth”.
How to save some time for your unproductive time
You could use Google Calendar to create an “event for yourself” to make sure you don’t forget your unproductive time.
Also, you should track time while at it to make sure a) you know exactly how much time you’re dedicating to this on your schedule and b) you don’t exceed the amount of time you’ve given yourself.
Timeneye, for example, offers time tracking for Google Calendar thanks to its integration that allows you to register time from a Google Calendar event.
Getting through a busy day and be productive requires a lot of effort and work, but also some moments of downtime.
And in the end, if it helps you work better, it’s not actually “unproductive ”, isn’t it?
Your time is priceless, take better care of it: sign up for Timeneye and know where your time really goes. If you’re still struggling to free some time on your schedule, we’ve written a list of productivity tips for busy people.
Cover photo via Stocksnap.io