The future of work is... to think more and to be less busy

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Have you asked someone recently how’s work, the answer you almost invariably get is “I’m busy”.  Our brains are under siege from information overload. Think about the last 24 hours, how many times have you checked your Facebook page, searched online for something , watched a YouTube video, sent a text message? We are always ‘on’. According to Dan Rose of Facebook, we are now consuming 7 hours of content in 5 hours. The reality also is if you are busy all the time something is wrong with the way you are working and you need to step back and take an honest look at the things that are taking up your time.

The challenge with this constant busy state and reacting to so many technology sources is that we rarely stop and think, really think. Before you read on, think about where you are when you come up with a great idea?

Most people say in the bathroom, in the shower, lying on a beach, driving or going for a run. There is one place almost no one says – at their desk. The places we do our best thinking are generally where we do not have our head in a laptop or in our phone but where we are giving the brain time to think. The future of work will be about idea generation and creativity and this means we are going to have to have thinking time and not just be busy all the time. I am sure that everyone in Nokia was busy but had they looked up a little more often, they may have realised that the phone market had moved on without them.  Practically, if you want to come up with better ideas:

  • Spend less time at the desk, there are apps you can plug into your pc like RescueTime that monitor how much time you spend on email, social media etc to give you a baseline. Talk more and write less is a good rule of thumb
  • Be honest about the amount of time you spend on your phone/ tablet and force yourself to go phone/tablet free for a day if only to see how hard it is
  • Give yourself times in your day with nothing scheduled where you think  and make sense of the challenges and opportunities in front of you.
  • Finally, remove your phone from your bedroom, sleep is one of the best ways for the brain to organise what is happening and lack of sleep is a sure fire way to sleep-walk through the next day. I know many will say this is impossible (how will I wake up in the morning is a standard question!) but we used to do it, so it is achievable and more importantly beneficial.

So the next time someone asks you how work is – stop yourself from saying “busy”, maybe even try to say “ work is great I am getting lots of time to think”.

Peter Cosgrove set up the Future of Work Institute in Ireland and has written many research papers which you can find here: