Thursday, June 4, 2009

Work and Play

After observing my incredibly driven, evidently overworked and perennially stressed Ivy League students, I got into a habit of ending every class by saying: "Have a great day and don't forget to have some fun." As I would often remark to my students: "If we could find somebody who works as hard as your people (meaning the Americans) and relaxes as much and as well as my people (the Ukrainians), we would have one very well-balanced individual."

People often attach a sense of guilt to procrastination. They feel that, somehow, they are wasting precious time that could be dedicated to something important. Unfortunately, they forget that doing something completely unproductive (like watching reruns of a silly show on television, reading mystery novels, surfing the Internet for no particular reason, sitting on the balcony and staring at the sunset) is often the most productive thing they can do.

For those of us who do research, long uninterrupted chunks of time when we apparently do nothing except read, think, walk around, or sit staring at the wall are crucial. This time is necessary to let the brain process information and create new ideas.

Many of my colleagues let this sense of guilt force them into looking for extra employment during the long summer holidays. As a result, their research suffers and they arrive at a new semester drained.

So my new slogan is: let's increase our productivity through fun, rest, and procrastination.


Anonymous said...

That is exactly what I needed to read. Thanks!

Clarissa said...

So happy to hear it! If you ever need any more arguments in favor of procrastination, I'm always here. :-)

Anonymous said...

That is so very true... I have been catching myself slipping into that "one has to be productive all the time" state of mind for quite some time ... Of course I rationalize it by the need to publish more before my grants are up for renewal and I myself am up for tenure... But in fact I probably got too deep into protestant work ethics...:)

Anonymous said...

That Calvinist work ethics will kill us all! I constantly feel I should be working. And I know that even when I "relax" half of my brain is thinking about publications and ideas for my courses.

NancyP said...

I have burned out. Of course, part of the problem is an ever-increasing clinical and teaching load, and disintegration of the department. Take her advice, folks.

Clarissa said...

This is very sad, NancyP! The problem is the structure of our education system that requires more and more work and provides us with no time to think and relax.