Can Being Busy Make Us Less Productive?

"Beware the barrenness of a busy life." - Socrates

As we identify and teach habits related to emotional well-being, it's important to think about the negative impact of busyness on our brains, moods, and output.  Thanks to modern technology, we can fill our plates with endless projects and diversions.  But should we? 

If productivity is our goal, we should think twice before embracing multitasking.  Recent research has revealed that multi-tasking can actually make us less productive.  By changing course while in the middle of completing one task, we ensure that it will take longer to finish both objectives; in fact, the time required increases by 25%.   

Busyness also impedes our ability to maintain calm and contented brains and emotional states.  Brain scans have demonstrated that extreme multitasking leads to lower brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a region that helps us focus and concentrate.  In other words, being busy wires our brains to become more agitated, anxious, and unsettled. 

Despite the downsides of multitasking, many of us feel drawn to do it anyway.  Why is that?  Researchers at the University of Chicago suggest that part of the answer may be something known as "idleness aversion."  Since we see full schedules as emblematic of success, we may be too frightened to relax.  Whether or not we realize it, we are compelled to work harder than is necessary.

As Socrates said, a busy life leads to barrenness.  Since our objective is to create lives of joy and meaning, let's find ways to practice happiness habits while avoiding incessant activity. 



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