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大幅减少工作量都有哪些好处?

更新时间:2017-12-31 12:54:16 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

The compelling case for working a lot less
大幅减少工作量都有哪些好处?

When I moved to Rome from Washington, DC, one sight struck me more than any ancient column or grand basilica: people doing nothing.

当我从华盛顿特区搬到罗马后,比起古老的罗马柱和宏伟的教堂,还有一番景象更加吸引我的注意:这里的人总是无所事事。

I’d frequently glimpse old women leaning out of their windows, watching people pass below, or families on their evening strolls, stopping every so often to greet friends. Even office life proved different. Forget the rushed desk-side sandwich. Come lunchtime, restaurants filled up with professionals tucking into proper meals.

我经常看到老妇人从窗户探出身来,望着下面的行人,或者一家人在傍晚漫步街头,时不时停下来与朋友问好。就连办公室的状态也截然不同。人们不会坐在办公桌旁匆忙吃个三明治了事,而是会享受真正的午餐,餐馆里聚满了享用正餐的专业人士。

Of course, ever since Grand Tourists began penning their observations in the seventeenth century, outsiders have stereotyped the idea of Italian ‘indolence’. And it isn’t the whole story. The same friends who headed home on their scooters for a leisurely lunch often returned to the office to work until 8pm.

当然,自从欧洲上层阶级的年轻人17世纪开始记录自己的游历见闻以来,外人便一直对意大利的"慵懒"理念怀有偏见。但这有些以偏概全。那些骑着踏板车回家享受休闲午餐的人,往往也会回到办公室工作到晚上8点。

Even so, the apparent belief in balancing hard work with il dolce far niente, the sweetness of doing nothing, always struck me. After all, doing nothing appears to be the opposite of being productive. And productivity, whether creative, intellectual or industrial, is the ultimate use of our time.

即便如此,这里的人们显然还是相信,应该在努力工作和安逸闲适之间达成某种平衡。这种理念令我颇为触动。毕竟,无所事事似乎与生产率背道而驰。而无论是通过创造力、知识还是工业技术来提高生产率,最终都要投入时间。

But as we fill our days with more and more ‘doing’, many of us are finding that non-stop activity isn’t the apotheosis of productivity. It is its adversary.

但当我们在日常生活中塞进越来越多的事情后,很多人却发现,不停地工作非但不利于提高生产率,反而会适得其反。

Researchers are learning that it doesn’t just mean that the work we produce at the end of a 14-hour day is of worse quality than when we’re fresh. This pattern of working also undermines our creativity and our cognition. Over time, it can make us feel physically sick – and even, ironically, as if we have no purpose.

研究人员发现,如果我们一天工作14小时,那么在即将结束时的工作质量显然比不上精力充沛的时候。不仅如此,这种工作模式还会破坏我们的创造力和认知能力。久而久之,我们就会感觉身体不适——具有讽刺意味的是,这甚至会令我们感觉毫无目的。

Think of mental work as doing push-ups, says Josh Davis, author of Two Awesome Hours. Say you want to do 10,000. The most ‘efficient’ way would be to do them all at once without a break. We know instinctively, though, that that is impossible. Instead, if we did just a few at a time, between other activities and stretched out over weeks, hitting 10,000 would become far more feasible.

《可怕的两小时》(Two Awesome Hourse)的作者乔希·戴维斯(Josh Davis)认为,可以把脑力工作想象成俯卧撑。比如,如果你想做1万个俯卧撑,最"高效"的方式是一次性做完,中间不休息。但我们本能地知道这不可能。相反,如果我们一次只做几个,中间掺杂其他活动,分成几个星期做完,要达到1万个的目标就会更加可行。

“The brain is very much like a muscle in this respect,” Davis writes. “Set up the wrong conditions through constant work and we can accomplish little. Set up the right conditions and there is probably little we can’t do.”

"从这个角度来讲,大脑很像肌肉。"戴维斯写道,"如果环境设置不当,总是一刻不停地工作,最终就只能完成很少的工作。如果环境合适,可能就没有多少完成不了的事情。"

Do or die

非做不可

Many of us, though, tend to think of our brains not as muscles, but as a computer: a machine capable of constant work. Not only is that untrue, but pushing ourselves to work for hours without a break can be harmful, some experts say.

但我们很多人往往认为大脑跟肌肉不一样,反倒更像是电脑:机器可以一刻不停地工作。专家认为,这种观念不仅不对,甚至会因为不停地工作而给自己带来伤害。

“The idea that you can indefinitely stretch out your deep focus and productivity time to these arbitrary limits is really wrong. It’s self-defeating,” says research scientist Andrew Smart, author of Autopilot. “If you’re constantly putting yourself into this cognitive debt, where your physiology is saying ‘I need a break’ but you keep pushing yourself, you get this low-level stress response that’s chronic – and, over time, extraordinarily dangerous.”

"如果你认为可以随意延伸精力和生产率,那显然是错误的。这只能弄巧成拙。"《自动驾驶》(Autopilot)的作者安德鲁·斯玛特(Andrew Smart)说,"如果你让自己不断陷入认知负债,你的生理机能就会告诉你,'我需要休息。'但你还是不断逼迫自己,把这种低水平的应激反应变成长期问题——久而久之,就会变得非常危险。"

One meta-analysis found that long working hours increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 40% – almost as much as smoking (50%). Another found that people who worked long hours had a significantly higher risk of stroke, while people who worked more than 11 hours a day were almost 2.5 times more likely to have a major depressive episode than those who worked seven to eight.

一项元分析发现,长时间工作会将冠心病风险提高40%——几乎与吸烟相同(50%)。另有研究发现,长时间工作的人中风的风险会大大提高,每天工作11小时的人抑郁发作的风险几乎是每天工作7至8小时的2.5倍。

In Japan, this has led to the disturbing trend of karoshi, or death by overwork.

在日本,这甚至引发了令人不安的"过劳死"。

If you’re wondering if this means that you might want to consider taking that long-overdue holiday, the answer may be yes. One study of businessmen in Helsinki found that over 26 years, executives and businessmen who took fewer holidays in midlife predicted both earlier deaths and worse health in old age.

如果你想知道这是否表示你应该考虑享受一个迟到的假期,答案或许是肯定的。一项针对26岁以上的赫尔辛基商人进行的研究发现,中年假期较少的高管和商人更短命,年老时的健康状况也更糟。

Holidays also can literally pay off. One study of more than 5,000 full-time American workers found that people who took fewer than 10 of their paid holiday days a year had a little more than a one-in-three chance of getting a pay rise or a bonus over three years. People who took more than 10 days? A two in three chance.

假期也可以带来经济上的回报。一项针对5,000名美国全职员工进行的调查发现:全年带薪假期不到10天的人3年时间内获得加薪或奖金的几率略高于三分之一;而带薪假期超过10天的人呢?几率大约是三分之二。

Productivity provenance

生产力来源

It’s easy to think that efficiency and productivity is an entirely new obsession. But philosopher Bertrand Russell would have disagreed.

人们很容易把效率和生产率当成一种全新的痴迷。但哲学家伯特兰·罗素(Bertrand Russell)却有不同观点。

“It will be said that while a little leisure is pleasant, men would not know how to fill their days if they had only four hours’ work out of the 24,” Russell wrote in 1932, adding, “it would not have been true at any earlier period. There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency. The modern man thinks that everything ought to be done for the sake of something else, and never for its own sake.”

"有人会说,虽然空闲令人愉快,但如果一天24小时只需要工作4个小时,人们就不知道该如何填补空闲了。"罗素在1932年写道,"早期并非如此。以前的人有一种无忧无虑玩耍的能力,但已经在一定程度上因为对效率的崇拜而被抑制了。现代人认为,所有事情都应该考虑其他方面的利益,但却从来不考虑自己的利益。"

That said, some of the world’s most creative, productive people realised the importance of doing less. They had a strong work ethic – but also remained dedicated to rest and play.

尽管如此,全世界最有创造力和生产力的一批人还是意识到少工作的重要性。他们都有很强的职业道德——但同时也很重视休息和娱乐。

“Work on one thing at a time until finished,” wrote artist and writer Henry Miller in his 11 commandments on writing. “Stop at the appointed time!... Keep human! See people, go places, drink if you feel like it.”

"一次性把事情做完。"艺术家兼作家亨利·米勒(Henry Miller)在他的11条写作戒律中写道,"在预定时间停止!……保持人性!多见见人,多出去转转,如果喜欢就喝两杯。"

Even US founding father, Benjamin Franklin, a model of industriousness, devoted large swathes of his time to being idle. Every day he had a two-hour lunch break, free evenings and a full night’s sleep. Instead of working non-stop at his career as a printer, which paid the bills, he spent “huge amounts of time” on hobbies and socialising. “In fact, the very interests that took him away from his primary profession led to so many of the wonderful things he’s known for, like inventing the Franklin stove and the lightning rod,” writes Davis.

就连美国国父本杰明·富兰克林(Benjamin Franklin)这种勤奋的楷模,也会抽出大量空闲时间。他每天都花两个小时吃午餐,晚上也会自由活动,而且会保证整晚的睡眠。他并没有像打印机一样一刻不停地工作,而是把"大量时间"用在业余爱好和社交活动上。"事实上,那些工作之外的兴趣让他得以通过很多有趣的东西为人所知,例如发明了富兰克林炉和避雷针。"戴维斯写道。

Even on a global level, there is no clear correlation between a country’s productivity and average working hours. With a 38.6-hour work week, for example, the average US employee works 4.6 hours a week longer than a Norwegian. But by GDP, Norway’s workers contribute the equivalent of $78.70 per hour – compared to the US’s $69.60.

即便是从全球来看,一个国家的生产率和平均工作时长也没有明显的相关性。例如,美国员工平均每周工作38.6小时,比挪威高出4.6小时。但从GDP来看,挪威员工平均每小时贡献78.70美元,美国只有69.60美元。

As for Italy, that home of il dolce far niente? With an average 35.5-hour work week, it produces almost 40% more per hour than Turkey, where people work an average of 47.9 hours per week. It even edges the United Kingdom, where people work 36.5 hours.

崇尚休闲的意大利呢?这里的劳动者每周平均工作35.5小时,但却比每周工作47.9小时的土耳其人平均每小时的产出高出近40%。甚至连平均每周工作36.5小时的英国也比不上意大利人。

All of those coffee breaks, it seems, may not be so bad.

由此可见,多喝几杯咖啡休息一会儿没有什么不好。

Brain wave

脑电波

The reason we have eight-hour work days at all was because companies found that cutting employees’ hours had the reverse effect they expected: it upped their productivity.

我们之所以每天工作8小时,是因为企业发现,减少员工的工作时间反而能够出乎意料地提高生产率。

During the Industrial Revolution, 10-to-16-hour days were normal. Ford was the first company to experiment with an eight-hour day – and found its workers were more productive not only per hour, but overall. Within two years, their profit margins doubled.

在工业革命期间,每天工作10到16小时是劳动者的常态。福特是第一家尝试8小时工作制的公司,结果发现,他们的员工不仅每小时的生产率得以提升,整体的生产力也有所提高。在两年时间内,他们的利润率翻了一番。

If eight-hour days are better than 10-hour ones, could even shorter working hours be even better? Perhaps. For people over 40, research found that a 25-hour work week may be optimal for cognition, while when Sweden recently experimented with six-hour work days, it found that employees had better health and productivity.

如果8小时工作制好于10小时工作制,那么进一步缩短工作时间是否会带来更好的效果?有可能。研究发现,对于年过40的人来说,每周工作25小时或许对认知能力最为有利,而当瑞典最近尝试6小时工作制时,也发现员工的健康和生产率得以提升。

This seems borne out by how people behave during the working day. One survey of almost 2,000 full-time office workers in the UK found that people were only productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes out of an eight-hour day. The rest of the time was spent checking social media, reading the news, having non-work-related chats with colleagues, eating – and even searching for new jobs.

人们在工作日期间的行为似乎也印证了这一点。一项针对英国近2,000名全职办公室员工进行的调查发现,人们在8小时工作中,只有2小时53分能够创造生产力。其余时间都用来查看社交媒体、阅读新闻、跟同事闲聊、吃饭——甚至寻找新工作。

We can focus for an even shorter period of time when we’re pushing ourselves to the edge of our capabilities. Researchers like Stockholm University psychologist K Anders Ericsson have found that when engaging in the kind of ‘deliberate practice’ necessary to truly master any skill, we need more breaks than we think. Most people can only handle an hour without taking a rest. And many at the top, like elite musicians, authors and athletes, never dedicate more than five hours a day consistently to their craft.

当我们把自己推向能力极限时,集中精力的时间甚至会更短。斯德哥尔摩大学心理学家K·安德斯·埃里克松(K Anders Ericsson)等研究人员发现,当从事"刻意训练"这种对真正掌握某种技巧十分必要的活动时,我们所需的休息时间超出自己的想象。多数人都只能连续进行1个小时。而顶尖音乐人、作家和运动员每天持续创作或训练的时间从不超过5小时。

The other practice they share? Their “increased tendency to take recuperative naps,” Ericsson writes – one way, of course, to rest both brain and body.

他们还有没有其他共同措施?他们"越来越希望通过小睡来恢复精力。"埃里克松写道——这种方式显然可以同时放松大脑和身体。

Other studies have also found that taking short breaks from a task helped participants maintain their focus and continue performing at a high level. Not taking breaks made their performance worse.

还有研究发现,如果在执行一项任务时能够短暂休息,可以帮助参与者保持注意力,并不断保持较好的表现。如果不休息,表现则会降低。

Active rest

主动休息

But ‘rest’, as some researchers point out, isn’t necessarily the best word for what we’re doing when we think we’re doing nothing.

但有研究人员指出,当我们以为自己什么也不做的时候,用"休息"来描述这时的状态未必是最贴切的。

As we’ve written about before, the part of the brain that activates when you’re doing ‘nothing’, known as the default-mode network (DMN), plays a crucial role in memory consolidation and envisioning the future. It’s also the area of the brain that activates when people are watching others, thinking about themselves, making a moral judgment or processing other people’s emotions.

正如我们之前所说,当你"什么也不做"时,大脑就会激活一片名为"默认模式网络"(DMN)的区域。该区域在规整记忆和设想未来的过程中发挥重要作用。当人们观看他人、思考自己、做出道德判断或者处理他人情绪时,这一区域也会被激活。

In other words, if this network were switched off, we might struggle to remember, foresee consequences, grasp social interactions, understand ourselves, act ethically or empathise with others – all of the things that make us not only functional in the workplace, but in life.

换言之,如果这个网络关闭,你可能就很难记住事情、预见结果、展开社交互动、理解自己、遵守道德或者同情他人——有了这些,我们才能在职场和生活中游刃有余。

“It helps you recognise the deeper importance of situations. It helps you make meaning out of things. When you’re not making meaning out of things, you’re just reacting and acting in the moment, and you’re subject to many kinds of cognitive and emotional maladaptive behaviours and beliefs,” says Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, a neuroscientist and researcher at the University of Southern California’s Brain and Creativity Institute.

"它帮助你更加深刻地认清形势。帮助你了解事情的含义。当你无法了解事情的含义时,你就只能从事当下的活动和反应,你会因为难以适应而在情绪上和认知上出现多种行为和信念。"南加州大学大脑和创造力学院研究员、神经科学家玛丽·海伦·伊莫蒂诺-杨(Mary Helen Immordino-Yang)说。

We also wouldn’t be able to come up with new ideas or connections. The birthplace of creativity, the DMN lights up when you’re making associations between seemingly unrelated subjects or coming up with original ideas. It is also the place where your ‘ah-ha’ moments lurk – which means if, like Archimedes, you got your last good idea while in the bath or on a stroll, you have your biology to thank.

我们也无法设想新的想法,或建立新的联系。当你把那些看似不相关的事情关联起来,或者得出原创想法的时候,作为创造力来源的DMN就会点亮。当你恍然大悟的时候,这里也会点亮——例如,当你像阿基米德一样在浴室或散步时想出了好点子,那都要感谢自己的生物构造。

Perhaps most importantly of all, if we don’t take time to turn our attention inward, we lose a crucial element of happiness.

最重要的或许在于,如果你不花时间把注意力转向内部,就会失去重要的幸福元素。

“We’re just doing things without making meaning out of it a lot of the time,” Immordino-Yang says. “When you don’t have the ability to embed your actions into a broader cause, they feel purposeless over time, and empty, and not connected to your broader sense of self. And we know that not having a purpose over time is connected to not having optimal psychological and physiological health.”

"我们很多时候都在不求甚解地做事。"伊莫蒂诺-杨说,"当你没有能力把自己的行为融入到更宽泛的缘由时,久而久之就会感觉漫无目的,空虚,失去自我。我们知道,长时间失去目标跟身心健康得不到优化有关。"

Monkey mind

分散思维

But as anyone who has tried meditation knows, doing nothing is surprisingly difficult. How many of us, after 30 seconds of downtime, reach for our phones?

但所有尝试过冥想的人都知道,什么也不做其实非常困难。有多少人能忍住30秒钟不碰手机?

In fact, it makes us so uncomfortable that we’d rather hurt ourselves. Literally. Across 11 different studies, researchers found that participants would rather do anything – even administer themselves electric shocks – instead of nothing. And it wasn’t as if they were asked to sit still for long: between six and 15 minutes.

事实上,这种感觉极不舒服,我们甚至宁肯伤害自己。这并非危言耸听。在11项不同的研究中,研究人员发现参与者什么都愿意接受——甚至主动接受电击——只要别让他们什么都不做就行。其实他们被要求坐着不动的时间并不算太长:大约只有6到15分钟。

The good news is that you don’t have to do absolutely nothing to reap benefits. It’s true that rest is important. But so is active reflection, chewing through an issue you have or thinking about an idea.

好消息是,你不必完全不做任何事情也可以收获利益。休息确实很重要,但主动反思、认真思考同样如此。

In fact, anything that requires visualising hypothetical outcomes or imagined scenarios – like discussing a problem with friends, or getting lost in a good book – also helps, Immordino-Yang says. If you’re purposeful, you even can engage your DMN if you’re looking at social media.

事实上,伊莫蒂诺-杨表示,任何需要进行形象化假设或者设想某个场景的事情——例如与朋友讨论问题,或者沉浸在一本好书之中——都可以起到帮助。如果你有这种意识,甚至可以在查看社交媒体的时候与自己的DMN互动。

“If you’re just looking at a pretty photo, it’s de-activated. But if you’re pausing and allowing yourself to internally riff on the broader story of why that person in the photo is feeling that way, crafting a narrative around it, then you may very well be activating those networks,” she says.

"如果你只是观看漂亮的照片,那就无效。但如果你停下来,让自己在内心设想一个宽泛的故事,来解释照片里的那个人为什么有那种感受,围绕这个故事设想各种情节,这样就可以很好地调动这些网络。"她说。

It also doesn’t take much time to undo the detrimental effects of constant activity. When both adults and children were sent outdoors, without their devices, for four days, their performance on a task that measured both creativity and problem-solving improved by 50%. Even taking just one walk, preferably outside, has been proven to significantly increase creativity.

想要消除持续不断的活动产生的负面影响,并不需要花费太多时间。如果成年人和孩子不携带任何设备一起出门4天时间,他们在执行一项任务时表现出的创造力和解决问题的能力都会提升50%。即便只是一次散步,最好是在户外,也可以大幅提升创造力。

Another highly effective method of repairing the damage is meditation: as little as a week of practice for subjects who never meditated before, or a single session for experienced practitioners, can improve creativity, mood, memory and focus.

另外一种修复破坏的有效方法就是冥想:对于从未进行过冥想的人来说,只需一个星期练习一次,而对于有经验的练习者而言,只需要一次冥想,便可提升创造力、情绪、记忆力和注意力。

Any other tasks that don’t require 100% concentration also can help, like knitting or doodling. As Virginia Woolf wrote in a Room of One’s Own: “Drawing pictures was an idle way of finishing an unprofitable morning’s work. Yet it is in our idleness, in our dreams, that the submerged truth sometimes comes to the top.”

其他不需要100%关注的任务也可以起到帮助,例如织毛衣。正如弗吉尼亚·伍尔芙(Virginia Woolf)所说:"画画是一种慵懒的方式,可以帮助你毫无意义地度过一个早晨。但有的时候,正是在慵懒、白日做梦的过程中,才能让隐藏的真理浮出水面。"

Time out

暂停一下

Whether it’s walking away from your desk for 15 minutes or logging out of your inbox for the night, part of our struggle is control – the fear that if we relax a grip for a moment, everything will come crashing down.

无论是离开办公桌15分钟,还是整晚关闭收件箱,我们担心的都是控制力——我们害怕的是,一旦我们放松一会儿,一切都会瓦解。

That’s all wrong, says poet, entrepreneur and life coach Janne Robinson. “The metaphor I like to use is of a fire. We start a business, and then after a year, it’s like, when can we take a week off, or hire someone to come in? Most of us don’t trust someone to come in for us. We’re like, ‘The fire will go out’,” she says.

诗人、企业家、生活教练珍妮·罗宾森(Janne Robinson)认为,这完全错误。"我喜欢用火来打比方。我们创造了一家公司,一年之后,我们能不能离开一个星期,让别人来接管?多数人都不信任外人。我们觉得,'火会熄灭。'"她说。

“What if we just trusted that those embers are so hot, we can walk away, someone can throw a log on and it’ll burst into flames?”

"我们能不能相信,余烬温度很高,我们离开一下,别人只要往上面堆放木料,火就能着起来?"

That isn’t easy for those of us who feel like we have to constantly ‘do’. But in order to do more, it seems, we may have to become comfortable with doing less.

对于那些感觉应该不停做事的人来说,这并不容易。但为了多完成一些事情,我们似乎必须首先习惯减少工作时间。

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