Summary: Relaxation is important for health and maintaining life/work balance and productivity.
Sometimes working less increases productivity because it allows more time to take care of oneself, such as sleeping, eating, and exercising properly. Overworking can lead to lower productivity because it generates extra stress.
This post is Part II of the last one about how multitasking can interfere with learning and productivity. Though we live in a time when there seem to be more distractions than ever with the huge number of media choices and mobile devices we use to access them, distraction generally is believed to have a downside for our cognitive performance.
Distraction and being interruptable at all hours is a trend that can reduce normal sleep routines, resulting in both sleep deprivation and chronic sleeplessness. A Harvard University study recently found sleep deprivation is costing Americans $63 billion a year in lost productivity.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated just over 40 million American workers aren't getting enough sleep. A University of Southern California study of investment bankers and their very driven lifestyles found they can experience depression, heart disease, alcoholism, eating disorders, weight gain, prescription drug abuse, back pain, and other problems due to overworking and not taking care of themselves.
Conversely, napping has been found by some research studies to increase performance significantly. In one of them, napping for an hour or more improved memory. In another, air traffic controllers improved their mental abilities after taking naps for just nineteen minutes.
Relaxation is required for recharging and letting go so that we can build up our energy and clear our minds. Also, it isn't simply a matter of relaxing once the fatigue and stress have built up due to overwork and self-neglect. We need to regularly practice rejuvenating to help us sleep well every night. Otherwise, we may face burnout and become very stressed or even depressed.
This last point goes to the practice of self-compassion, which is a term associated with Dr. Kristen Neff from the University of Texas-Austin. She says this practice and perspective is one that may be more sustainable and healthier than the self-esteem model because it focuses on self-care, not trying to prove one's worth to others.
Image Credit: Tomwsulcer, Wiki Commons