Wasting time is good for you

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Somehow, I managed to miss this New York Times article about wasting time until it turned up in Arts & Letters Daily (which is, incidentally, one of my favorite online aggregators of academic and literary news).

Anyway, the article talks about two seemingly conflicting trends: we are both working harder these days (logging 70-plus hour work weeks and multitasking when we’re at home) and wasting more time (checking email, trying to find that document at the bottom of a pile of papers, sitting through meetings and conference calls that might last about half as long as they do).

But according to productivity experts, we’re wasting time because we’re working harder because we need a little down time in order to accomplish everything we’ve set out to do. Working energy, says Bob Kustka, a Massachusetts based time-management expert, is best used in spurts where we work hard on a few focused activities and then take a brief respite.

By far the coolest part of the piece, however, came towards the end:

At the headquarters of Best Buy in Minneapolis, for instance, the hot policy of the moment is called ROWE, short for Results Only Work Environment.

There workers can come in at four or leave at noon, or head for the movies in the middle of the day, or not even show up at all. It’s the work that matters, not the method. And, not incidentally, both output and job satisfaction have jumped wherever ROWE is tried.

Going to have to do some more research into that one

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