Two reasons why we are always busy, even when it’s unproductive
And what we can do to help ourselves
We tend not to like being idle Image: Thinkstock
It’s easy to succumb to the temptation of staying busy even when it’s counterproductive. That’s how our brains are wired. But there is a remedy that can translate that predisposition into productivity.
Research points to two reasons we often feel busy — and they are both self-imposed.
1. People have an aversion to idleness: We have friends who will, by choice, drive miles out of their way to avoid waiting for a few minutes at traffic lights, even if the detour means their journey takes more time. Research suggests that the same applies to work, where many of the things we choose to do are merely justifications to keep ourselves busy.
2. We have a bias toward action: When faced with uncertainty or a problem, we prefer to do something, even if it’s counterproductive and doing nothing is the best course of action. Action bias can lead us to jump into developing solutions before we fully understand a problem.
So what helps? Reminding ourselves that taking the time to reflect can help make us more productive. Reflection affects our performance by making us more aware of where we are, giving us information about our progress and lending us the confidence we need to accomplish tasks and goals. Through reflection, we can better understand the actions we are considering, and ensure that they are the ones that will make us productive.
- Copyright 2015 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp
Previously published in The Irish Times.
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