Work Hard, Not Much

It turns out that productivity may actually decline as workers put in longer and longer hours. So say many recent articles and studies addressing the relationship between the hours worked by an employee and the output she can be expected to produce.

A former recruiting candidate of mine shared just such an article from the Wall Street Journal this week titled, “Radical Idea at the Office: A 40-Hour Workweek.” This particular piece focuses on the benefits of a fixed and capped work week to both the company (its ability to attract high-caliber applicants, pay lower compensation) and employees (clear expectations and work-life balance) and, like most recent articles on the topic, quotes John Pencavel, a labor economics professor at Stanford University, whose research indicates that increases in productivity from additional working hours decline above a certain threshold (read his study here).

secretary-1506166These are not new ideas. That they seem new is further evidence of our growing obsession with being “busy.” And our resulting inability (or disinclination) to truly disconnect from work is causing us to confuse working a lot with working hard.

Working hard is not (necessarily) working fast. It is not running a manic, unceasing race to stay ahead of an ever-expanding inbox. It is not responding to every ring or buzz of a phone at any time of day. It is not even within the capabilities of one who feels beholden to and at the effect of everyone’s agenda but her own. Continue reading

Share Button

The Secret to Becoming an Expert

You have prepared to act. The time for thinking and planning and evaluating has either passed or it has not yet arrived. Your desk is clean. Your computer, open. The page, blank. Your phone is poised to connect you to wherever and whomever you want. You are on your way to showing up. And you have sent the tiny gremlin in your head out for groceries.

Or so you thought. Continue reading

Share Button

Should We Believe Anything We Read?

There ought to be an addendum to the old adage, “Don’t believe everything you read.” When reading mainstream media coverage of scientific studies, change “everything” to “anything.”

Case in point: ‘Cholesterol levels linked to early signs of Alzheimer’s in brain’, an article recently published by an NBC senior health reporter, heralds a new study that found a correlation between certain cholesterol levels and evidence of certain proteins in the brain, which are known to help form the plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

While these findings may serve as the foundation for future inquiries into the possible causes of one of our most prolific killers, this is not how the NBC reporter chose to introduce her busy readers to the story (to be fair, “potential foundation for future inquiry found” does not make for a very splashy lede). Rather than honing her words to convey the subject of her report accurately, she led with the most common mistake a science reporter can make Continue reading

Share Button