Pets: the Prescription for Improved Productivity

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Some of us who came of age during the “Me” Decade of the 1970s experienced a hard awakening: simply “being” was not enough to get by in life.

With all due respect to levitating yogis, our “worth” in Western society is measured - at least in part - by how much we produce and how efficiently we produce it. Most of us more or less embrace this definition of value. A select few choose to withdraw from it completely by living “off the grid.”

Those of us who choose sustenance over starvation in the barter world often find ourselves scrambling to be more productive than we are. Many view this challenge as if they were squaring off against a combatant. They perceive any pursuit not directly related to their ultimate goal as a time suck. Needed hours of REM sleep are squeezed into but a few moments. If we choose to eat breakfast, poached eggs are preferred because they “slide down faster.” Days are plowed through without respite only to find that rules have been changed and goal posts set back in the distance. Even leisure activities are approached with Spartan determination.

Independent “systems” analyses of productivity have concluded that less is indeed more. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, we can do much more in less time by taking strategic breathers throughout the day.

For guidance on creative detachment we could turn to any number of Wall Street wizards or spiritual sherpas. Or, we could look to that fur-ball curled up right next to us on the couch.

Our Lilly, the Boston terrier, knows when to act and when to hang back. Several times each day, Lilly patrols our condo’s perimeter with the diligence of an ADT monitor. She reliably barks out intruder alerts when brazen wasps buzz the window or a coyote trolls by. Five minutes later, she’s down for a short nap. Time for paw grooming! Then to learn the names of her new toys. Run. Fetch. Bow. Growl. Nap again. Eat (kibble sprinkled with freeze-dried turkey!). Patrol again. All clear!

My own comparative “systems analysis” revealed that Lilly got more done in three hours than I used to get by “buckling down” for the same length of time at my desk. This information changed the way I do business - in work and in play.

Now I rarely go more than two or three straight hours of activity without a break. However things are going, whatever my level of productivity, I step away from what I’m doing. It might be for one minute, it may be for five. If I stepped away when feeling “stuck,” it is more likely that I will return with a fresh perspective. If I break while on a “hot” streak, I trust I can hop back on my glider and wing it to the next level.

There’s nothing wrong with devoting our shoulder to the wheel and our nose to the grindstone - so long as we also devote our brain and body to some rejuvenating break time.

My personal prescription for improved efficiency and productivity: follow the furry leader.