As French workers are required to take at least 31 days off each year, nearly all of them have chosen August to flit down to Cannes or over to Italy, Spain, or Greece, where the Mediterranean beckons and life hasn’t stopped like it has at home.
Some might call it laziness, but what French people are really doing by vacationing for the entirety of this month is avoiding the tipping point of overwork.
Working long hours often leads to productivity-killing distractions. Such is an instance of the saying known as Parkinson’s law, which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Work less, and you’ll tend to work better.
So too with practicing a skill. K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of psychology at Florida State University, conducted a study in Berlin and found that the amount of time successful musicians spent practicing each day was surprisingly low—a mere 90 minutes per day. In fact, the most successful musicians not only practiced less, but also took more naps throughout the day and indulged in breaks during practice when they grew tired or stressed.
It has long been known that working too much leads to life-shortening stress. It also leads to disengagement at work, as focus simply cannot be sustained for much more than 50 hours a week.
*Image of “productive” via Shutterstock