Fun time: how to kill work time

As watching videos on YouTube can help solve complex mathematical problems and how to ensure that a break in the work was the most effective? Translation of an article by Greg Beato, which explains why "unimportant" things needed for efficient work on "important" problems.

Since, as Frederick Winslow Taylor counted the exact number of seconds that should be spent to employees of Bethlehem Steel to scoop iron ore with a shovel, maximising effectiveness has become for Americans the Holy Grail. But psychologists and neuroscientists are showing us the limitations of this approach: a waste of time, they believe, makes us more creative. Even seemingly frivolous activities, like watching cat videos on YouTube, can help to solve problems in mathematics.

Brent Coker (the University of Melbourne, Australia), studying browsing behavior, found that people who are in the workplace have free access to any materials in the network, about 9% more productive than those who have this access no. Last year, Jonathan Schuler, Professor of psychology at the University of California (Santa Barbara), published a study "Inspired by Distraction", which he spent together with his student Benjamin Baird. In it, he proves that "simple classes that allow the attention to wander may facilitate creative problem solving".

Sharpie gave participants a series of tasks where you need to come up with so many different applications the most common everyday objects as possible. In accordance with the principle, introduced a Sharper, more original were the answers, the more points creativity counted responsible. After basic test, the participants were divided into groups; he gave them a break. The first group during this break mandatory performed tasks on the memory test; the second was engaged in similar tasks, but which at the same time, it allowed the attention to wander (their fulfillment was not an obligatory condition); participants of the third group simply rested; the fourth group did not have any incubation period at all. Then all four groups received a new batch of jobs that were at least one object from the first round. The second group (the one that during a break were given optional tasks to memory) showed the best results.

"The most surprising result, to which we come in this study is that the optional tasks was better than doing nothing," says Schuler. Why do so — is unclear. "My best explanation is this: if doing the optional tasks, they allow you to protect yourself from very long chain of thoughts," says Schuler. "As it shakes, stirs the pot, so you don't procrastinate one and the same idea for a long time. Come to mind (and away from) new ideas, and this associative process leads to an increase in creativity".

Schuler is not the only one who came to this conclusion. In 2006, the AP Dijksterhuis psychologist at the University of Radboud (the Netherlands) also found that people who received jobs making difficult decisions, coping better when they were given a little rest that they could get distracted before making this decision. He presented the participants a list of cars and their descriptions, positive and negative. He then asked participants to rate the machine. One group had over four minutes to reflect on the information they have learned before make the assessment decision. Another group was asked to distracted by something to do during those four minutes. This group made the best decision.

Four years later, James Berki, student at Carnegie Mellon, Professor David Cresswell (from the same) and scientist Ajay Satpute East European University repeated the study Dijksterhuis. But they went further and decided to use functional magnetic resonance imaging to track brain activity of the subjects. The study confirmed that the decision-making process in neurons occurred in a moment of "unconscious thinking". Berceli believes that it happened because of unconscious and conscious thinking at the same time strengthened non-overlapping neural region. The neural region responsible for unconscious thoughts continued to process the information obtained earlier, so that the results of unconscious decision-making could be "brought to a conscious state" when they were needed.

"If you want your brain unconsciously decided complicated mathematical problem, it is best if you're distracted by something opposite"

In simple terms, this means that we are able to focus on one issue (for example, watch a cat video), solving at the same time something else (for example, complex mathematical problems). "Brief periods of unconscious thinking can help in decision-making" — summarized by the authors in their article published in January 2013 in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Advance Access. "You need something more remotely related to what you do," — said Berli. "If you want your brain unconsciously decided complicated mathematical problem, it is best if you're distracted by something opposite. Good tennis, bad — a puzzle."

This is a great Board, which you should remember during short break at work. Entrepreneur Jacques Abra intends to contribute to this principle — he wants to come up with the perfect "uvlekatel" and to earn on it money. His startup SelfEcho — development of the idea of the app UpJoy, which encourages a positive and motivating video. The user specifies interesting subjects — sports, animals, nature, humor — and the app is a stream of clips and images that have been viewed thousands of users leaving positive feedback. Over time UpJoy learning how to make the best feed for a particular user, and filters the output to suit his tastes.

"This is exactly the type of "interference" which, according to our study, will contribute to creativity, says Schuler, SelfEcho help with the development of the software. — There are two reasons. First, it improves mood, and is known to be in a good mood increases creativity. Second, it provides optional, it would seem that a break."

Abra believes that the images that inspire you to think about the future or encourage curiosity, are also suitable in order for them to be distracted. The same effect have images that seem to be "devoid of ego" — they do not bring into your life no specifics. "When people need a break at work, they look on Facebook, and this is the experience based on the desire of our ego," says Abra. "They look at someone's vacation photos and think, "Why not me? I also want a vacation." If you want to get as much of a senseless waste of time, view random videos of babies on YouTube, not photos of babies your friends on Facebook.

SelfEcho determines the ideal duration and number of interruptions per day that are needed to prevent a phenomenon known as hedonic adaptation. "When we get used to some positive or negative phenomenon, its emotional intensity is reduced and we become more resistant to its effects," says Abra. The amount of time which people daily spend in UpJoy will be limited at least settings that will calculate the required level of efficiency.

The Ghost of Frederick Winslow Taylor must nods: in the end, time for a break — the only uncontrolled part of the working day or more will not be a waste of time.



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