Walk It Off, Structured Downtime for Productivity

Working all day is hard – so don’t do it. In many desk jobs one doesn’t need to be there from 9-5, indeed we can be more productive by not being there. More evidence keeps cropping up that we are animals that need exercise and a diversity of daily experiences.

Going for a walk mid-afternoon might be just what you need. It’s easy, just get up and do it.

And structured downtime doesn’t just help the world’s greatest writers and thinkers do their best work; it helps all of us while we’re learning and striving to achieve tasks. Or at least it would, if someone told us how important it actually is. “We spend from 12 to 16 years of our lives in formal education institutions. And yet, we’re never given any kind of real formal instruction on how to learn effectively,” says Oakley. “It’s mindboggling, isn’t it?”

In fact, suggests Oakley, there are some very simple techniques and insights that can make you way better at learning—insights based on modern cognitive neuroscience. The most central is indeed this idea that while you obviously have to focus your cognitive energies in order to learn something (or write something, or read something, or to memorize something), that’s only part of what counts. In addition to this “focused mode”—which relies on your brain’s prefrontal cortex—we also learn through a “diffuse mode,” rooted in the operations of a variety of different brain regions. In fact, the brain switches back and forth between these modes regularly. (For those familiar with Daniel Kahneman’s famous book Thinking, Fast and Slow, the diffuse mode would be analogous to Kahneman’s “System 1,” and the focused mode to “System 2.”)

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France Pays People to Cycle to Work

France is experimenting with new way to subsidize transportation by getting more people to bicycle to work. Traffic in Paris is particularly awful and with ongoing population growth and car-focused infrastructure the transportation problems are only going to increase. France is hoping that getting people to ride bicycles will stymie the growth of transportation issues.

French Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier, noting that commuting using public transport and cars is already subsidized, said that if results of the test are promising, a second experiment on a larger scale will be done.

The ministry hopes that the bike-to-work incentive scheme will boost bike use for commuting by 50 percent from 2.4 percent of all work-home journeys, or about 800 million km, with an average distance of 3.5 km per journey.

In Belgium, where a tax-free bike incentive scheme has been in place for more than five years, about 8 percent of all commutes are on bicycles. In the flat and bicycle-friendly Netherlands, it is about 25 percent, cycling organizations say.

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Abolish The Week

People who aren’t slaves to the 9-5 world (or worse the 8-8 crowd) may not understand the tyranny of the week. Those poor folks who are forced by their managers and bosses to slave away at set hours and times. Sometimes the best time to do something may not be during the working window.

There are many benefits to having varying work schedules. For one, rush hour wouldn’t be so bad for those suffering from commuterism. There are plenty of other reasons too, which are addressed in a recent article from Slate:

But there’s nothing inevitable about the ceaseless repetition of six days of work, one day of rest. As labor has become both more productive and more organized, the week has evolved. The writer Witold Rybczynski traces the emergence of the weekend to 19th century England, when the British agricultural revolution made land and labor more productive. At first, Rybczynski relates, this allowed workers extra leisure, which they enjoyed spontaneously—not according to any ironclad schedule. As the Industrial Revolution became a driving force in trans-Atlantic civilization, the push for greater efficiency demanded standardization of this extra leisure. In 1926, Henry Ford began shutting his factories on Saturdays in a bid to crystallize an American convention of a two-day weekend full of recreation (that he hoped would involve driving). It worked.

Read more here.

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Economists: Reduce Time Spent Working

Since roughly the end of the 70s productivity at workplaces has increased yet wages have stagnated (except for the top 1%) meaning that we are relatively worse off than before. All one has to do is look at the graph below to get the basic idea of this global issue.

Great-Prosperity-vs-Great-Recession

With this in mind, it’s great to see economists calling for a reduced work week. In North America, a standard full-time week is 40 hours, and the economists are calling for a 30 hour work week.

The benefits of working less are huge for individuals as well as society as a whole. Some may think that fewer working hours would mean lost productivity and GDP, but they’d be wrong. There’s no evidence that the reduction will have larger negative economic impacts.

Anna Coote, head of social policy at the NEF, an independent think-tank, said: “It’s time to make ‘part-time’ the new ‘full-time’.
“We must rethink the way we divide up our hours between paid and unpaid activities, and make sure everyone has a fair share of free time.”
Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany have shown it is possible to make changes like these without weakening their economies, the books claims.
It adds: “Time spent providing unpaid care constitutes an important civic contribution that is often unrecognised.
“A shorter working week would both ease the pressure on carers, most of whom are women, and enable their responsibilities to be more widely shared with men. It could therefore help tackle the entrenched domestic bases of gender inequalities.”

Read more here.

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Get Help Choosing an Ethical Career

80,000 Hours is a student run organization at Oxford University that helps people find a job or career in something that makes the world better. This is great for so many obvious reasons – but the one I love the most is that it shows how philosophy can be applied in your life everyday.

Do you want to spend 8 (or more) hours a day just earning a couple dollars when you can get paid to make the planet, people, and the world better?

According to the organization’s view of ethics-as-impact, a do-gooder job only “does good” insofar as you are better at it than the person who would have filled the job otherwise. “This is the replaceability factor,” says MacAskill. “The difference between you and the person who would have been in your shoes.” If you’re fully replaceable, you are, quite literally, not making a difference.

Read more at Co.Exist.

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