Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to be a more productive writer

How to be more productive? New research says we should relax.

Not surprisingly, this new research on relaxation and productivity is American research. Europeans don’t need to research relaxation because they already practice it. Most European cultures already encourage things like long lunches and substantial vacation time.

Relaxation is so important to Europeans, that Writer Abroad has had her attempts at doing it criticized by her European colleagues:
Relax. You'll get more done.
“You’re only taking two weeks off and going to three Spanish cities? How will you have time to relax?”

One Swiss colleague in particular enjoys reminding Writer Abroad when it is noon and she is still at her desk instead of at lunch:

“Lunch break, it’s noon,” he’ll say, picking up his coat at 11:59 so he’s out the door exactly at noon and not a minute later.

Later, maybe 15 minutes later, Writer Abroad finally goes out too.

Of course, to an American, an hour for lunch or two weeks for one vacation is practically a lifetime. Exactly why they need to begin putting their newfound research into practice.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, Relax! You’ll be more productive, which discussed this new research on relaxation, we should incorporate things like daytime workouts, short naps, and longer, more frequent vacations into our lives if we want to get more done.

It also stressed the advantages gained from working in periods that last no more than 90 minutes.

If you need help putting the 90-minute work period into practice, have a baby. As Writer Abroad has previously written, having a baby can actually make you a more productive writer.

This 90-minute concept is exactly why.

In fact, Writer Abroad has been using this technique for the last year and a half—working during Baby M’s naptimes, which, coincidentally, means about two 90-minute periods per day. Just enough to pretty much get everything done she needs to get done and still have enough energy leftover to relax—or read Goodnight Moon 999 times.


  1. I'm a European, Dutch, married to an A-type American and I can tell you our views on work and relaxation and taking time off etc. etc. have always been in conflict.

    I'd like to see statistics about "productivity" in the US and Western European countries. Americans tend to think they are the most productive people on the planet.

  2. I recently had lunch with an American married to a German and they also have relaxation conflicts.
    On Wikipedia, there are six European countries in the top six for productivity. The U.S. is at number 7--behind France, which takes more vacation than almost any culture. I think we should take note!

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  5. Thanks for weighing in on this interesting subject. I love the 90 minute idea. Seems to make intuitive sense. And I can only second what you say about babies. Ever since our kids were born, and that's been several years, I've felt the urge to make use of every spare moment, because I realize how rare they are. That's not the same thing as being hurried or overtaxed (I don't think); more like wanting to experience each moment as fully as possible. Anyway, as my brother likes to say, "having kids makes you super efficient."

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