When was the last time you picked up a novel just for fun? What was the last book you read from cover to cover in a relatively short time span? Many adults don’t read fiction, ever, and it’s messing with our heads. More importantly, and more shockingly, it’s messing with our productivity.
You have been fooled if you have ever believed taking the time to read a fictional book for fun is a complete waste of time. Reading fiction has more positive effects on our brains and our ability to get work done than you might think. Before you start searching for a good novel to get lost in, however, you should first know more specifically how not reading fiction is actually hurting you.
Here is what you need to know about how not reading fiction is your productivity’s most powerful and destructive nemesis.
1. You are way too stressed out
Everyone experiences stress. Everyone. We all have our own ways, healthy or not, of figuring out how best to cope with the various stressors that exist in our lives. The more stressed out you feel, the less productive you can force yourself to be. Not taking the time to de-stress, or not engaging in the appropriate activities that will help you reduce your stress levels, essentially affects how productive you are on any given day.
It turns out that fiction – novels; plays; comic books, etcetera – might be the missing piece of the puzzle that can lead you to fewer feelings of stress from day to day, allowing you to be more productive at home as well as in the workplace.
Reading fiction on a regular basis may even have the potential to positively influence your mood over time. The main purpose of fiction is to immerse yourself into a story that is not actually happening. When we do this, we are, at least temporarily, setting aside our own stressors in order to focus instead on the ones being dealt with by that fictional story’s characters.
There is a reason we are consistently told to take breaks as we move through the work day: our brains need time away from oncoming stress so we can process it all. The same goes for spending an hour or two a few nights a week with our nose in a novel. Our brains need a break, and fictional stories can ease the pressure and shift our focus to something less overwhelming for a time.
2. You are not giving your brain the chance to get creative enough
If you have the kind of job that requires you to do pretty much the same thing over and over again, day after day, it’s no wonder you are having problems being more productive. The problem with routine, as helpful and beneficial as it may be in some settings and situations, is that it often does the one thing our brains really cannot handle: it discourages creative thinking.
This is why engaging in activities outside of work, such as reading fiction on a regular basis, is so beneficial for the productively challenged. Just the act of picking up a book and exposing your brain to something completely outside your typical surroundings can completely change the way you think, and as a result, the way you work, too.
Reading fiction takes you right out of your present circumstances and, consequently, sends your brain into a completely different, though imagined world. The same rules of the real world do not always apply in fictional worlds. This figuratively stretches your brain and forces you to spend time thinking in ways you would not normally think, which, in its own way, promotes optimal productivity if practiced often enough.
It also makes you more creative, letting your brain exercise imagination and outside the box thinking. The more you read, the more you give yourself the chance to practice using the creative elements of your thought process to solve problems and generate new ideas.
3. You are having a harder time focusing on one thing for an extended period of time
If you are struggling majorly with your ability to be productive on a regular basis, one of the root causes may have something to do with your inability to focus clearly on one task at a time for long periods of time.
This is not an uncommon problem people face these days. With so much noise and information coming at us from all directions, thanks to smart phones and dozens of different social media platforms that need constant upkeep, it’s no wonder we can’t focus on what we’re supposed to be doing. But how does reading fit into the equation exactly?
Reading fiction consistently can help improve your ability to focus. Think about it: reading page after page of a story in one sitting requires you to sit still in one place for an extended period of time, forces you to pay attention to what you are reading and discourages outside distractions such as incoming text messages and ongoing conversations in the next room.
The more time you spend reading fiction, the more frequently you will be able to practice the art of completing a task in one sitting, start to finish, with minimal interruptions and/or distractions. This, in turn, will teach you the best possible habits you will need in order to start being more productive in every aspect of your life.
No matter your career, no matter how long it might have been since you last picked up and/or finished reading a fictional story, you need more fiction in your life. There are many different genres of fiction out there, everything from sci-fi novels to stage plays to graphic novels to short story collections. Find the kind of fiction you truly enjoy reading and make it a point to spend an hour each day immersed in a story. You will be amazed at the ways this newfound habit will increase your productivity and make you feel happier and more fulfilled in the process.