Renowned author and academic, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang believes that we get more done when we work less. While it may sound like a contradiction, the Stanford University academic has written four books on the subjects of creativity and productivity in the digital age. He took some time out to sit down with our own Becky Liggero Fontana on the latest episode of The Long Con, to share his insights on how it’s possible to improve our productivity habits.
Pang believes that the majority of people believe that work and rest are mutual competitors in their daily lives. “We get the idea that we’ll sleep when we’re dead, or rest is the thing that you get once you get everything done.”
According to Pang, the behaviour is seen among people who are time-pressured or people who really like their job, and are really interested in their work.
Pang noted that employees and employers continue to discount the values of long-term rest, creating better bouts of productivity. But studies have shown that the brain can be at its most creative when its resting and goes into default mode. “There’s something called the default mode network that activates, what’s interesting about the default mode, first of all, is that it switches on very quickly like literally in the time it takes to blink your eyes,” Pang said.
“The default mode can sort of start to switch on. The other thing is that it connects parts of the brain that we know are associated with creative thinking,” he added. “The other thing that the default mode network does that’s I think significant for creativity, it continues working on problems that have recently occupied our minds which we haven’t solved. So one version of this, the more psychological version, is rumination over some ambiguous conversation,” he explained.
“It’s got a lot of power and a lot of capacity to do really useful things for us if we give it space and if we make time for it.”
Pang continued to say that certain people will continue to strive for their creative moments in different ways. While it may feel like inspiration may strike at a moments notice, Pang believes in the power of routine in harness those golden moments of creativity into long term productivity.
“Accomplished people over the long run yes you do have those moments and they’re really cool when they happen. But they’re not how all the work happens when you look at let’s say a Hemingway or a Stephen King. They spend a lot of time figuring out how to construct routines and sort of regular practices so that they turn what looks like you know a game of like inspiration and passion into one that is much more that has more steadiness and sustainability.”
In the full interview, Pang goes further to explain how we can design long term strategies around vacation to avoid burn-out or long-term illness. Don’t forget to subscribe to the CalvinAyre.com YouTube channel to see all of our new videos as they go up. If you prefer to get your Long Con in a podcast format, you can always subscribe on Google, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.