At the GLS a presenter noted that the most successful creative types had times of isolation and times of socialization balanced. Both were prioritized regardless of whether the person was an introvert or an extrovert.
Work and busy time and down time string together to provide space for creativity and full engagement. People talk often about the lack of attention span for children and parents, perhaps part of that problem stems from not allowing for space in time for full engagement with what’s around us. Blog articles and tweets replace books and more detailed information not just because skimming was once popular now we can condense that information gathering even further.
But this comes at a cost. It is assumed that if you spend more time at any given thing that you will succeed or excel within that field. In a recent article it was suggested that if you read for a certain amount of time (1 hour a day) in any given field for a few years you would be a global expert on that field. While I dismiss this as hogwash because comprehension levels are not always consistent among readers, it makes that point that few people really truly engage with the world around them consistently or thoroughly.
Malcolm Gladwell popularized the 10,000 hours to expertise concept, but I want to push back on that a little. While I agree the time matters, it’s time not just spent doing the work but down time around the work. In swimming, it used to be that we would swim 10-20,000 yards a day over 4-5 hours with varying level of intensity mentally and physically. The culture shift in swim training moved to cut down the yardage and work on quality. Rest and recovery have been investigated in greater detail along with cross training.
What if we took education, work, and family as aspects of life that needed time in balance to bring out the best in any one area? In several of the most educated countries with the best educated children and reported as the happiest, the education system only has class for 20 hours a week. Kids are encouraged to explore and work on their own for the rest of the time, and teachers are well paid and they are allowed down time and home time to plan their lessons.
When we unbalance our lives by assuming quantity equals quality in work/play/school or any other idea, we loose focus and are not as effective in the work we do and cannot be as present to our families and friends. We end up loosing ground in the psychological and social equivalent of overtraining. If we worked less we would get more done.