If You Are Reading This to Waste Time, Good Job!


Brent Coker, who studies online behavior at the University of Melbourne in Australia, found that people who engage in “workplace Internet leisure browsing” are about 9 percent more productive than those who don’t. Last year, Jonathan Schooler, a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara published with his doctoral student Benjamin Baird a study called Inspired by Distraction. It concluded that “engaging in simple external tasks that allow the mind to wander may facilitate creative problem solving.”

At Nautilus, which publishes science stories based on a monthly theme, Greg Beato looks at a series of studies showing that wasting time while working can boost creativity—that is, if you waste time in a proper way. So what is the proper way?

“You want a distractor that’s pretty far away from what you want to process unconsciously,” Bursley says. If you want your brain to unconsciously process a math problem, it would be better to have the distractor be something totally different, like playing tennis, he says, rather than something similar, like a spatial puzzle.

In addition, Facebook is a bad way to waste time while working:

“When people take a break at work and get on Facebook, it becomes an ego-driven experience,” says Habra. “They see someone’s pictures from vacation, and they think, ‘Why isn’t that me? I wish I was on vacation too.’ ” If you want to get the most out of your time-wasting, stare at random YouTube babies, not the babies of your Facebook friends.

I have feeling that if you are distracting yourself by reading this here website at work, you are distracting yourself in the best possible way. Congrats! I’m so proud.

Photo: Alex

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7 Comments / Post A Comment

EvanDeSimone (#2,101)

Australia supports all my bad habits!

cmcm (#267)

Hold on a minute. So there are people who don’t partake in “workplace Internet leisure browsing”?

Who are these people and what are they doing at work all day long?

ThatJenn (#916)

@cmcm One of my jobs a few years ago was incredibly strict about this. If you wandered onto a non-work-related website you’d get an IM in seconds asking you to stay focused, and if you were caught looking at your phone, similar. Same with taking your phone with you on a bathroom break and taking a while, unless you were clocked out (which would also raise questions).

honey cowl (#1,510)

@ThatJenn That is rather draconian. It would be a hard adjustment for me!

ThatJenn (#916)

@honey cowl It wasn’t pretty for me, either. I’m glad I don’t work there anymore.

They had a few extreme-but-good ideas, like the daily activity reports in which we accounted for our days in 5-15 minute increments and set goals for the next day (kinda overkill but actually a useful tool), but a few of their policies were just morale busters and cultivated an us-vs-them attitude where people fought to get away with whatever they could instead of really wanting to work.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Oh good, I am proud of my time-wasting too! Thanks Mike.

ceereelyo (#3,552)

I am a champ at leisurely web browsing…but I break up my day with like, oh finish this report and then you can browse the news. am I wasting time? Maybe but I feel like I’m also learning about things, as I will look things up pertaining to my industry. As well as sales and wikipedias of all the summaries of tv shows every says I should watch but I know I never will.

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