We know the downsides: Obviously, it’s not a great idea to slack off on a regular basis. Slackers are spacey, disorganized, often late, and usually don’t have the best of reputations compared to their go-getter counterparts.
But there’s also a fair bit of evidence showing how important it is to stop with the go-getting once in a while and give ourselves a break. So what’s the upside?
A little online slacking at work can make you more productive. Psychologists know that when people try to suppress or avoid temptation, it makes that tempting thing ever more alluring. This truth even applies to hilarious YouTube videos, apparently. A recent paper found that when people were allowed to watch a short clip in between tasks, they ended up getting more done than the people who weren’t allowed the break. And the author of a similar study in 2009 said that people who do a little goofing off online during the workday end up being 9 percent more productive than those who don’t. (Allowing yourself a break in between tasks is different from being distracted during a task, which is not a good thing.)
Slackers may have healthier hearts. There is some evidence that type-A personalities are more likely to put themselves in the kinds of high-stress situations that lead to hostility and anger, which can trigger scary heart disease problems like heart failure and arrhythmias. Living in what the American Heart Association calls the “low stress zone” can help your ticker keep on ticking.
Giving yourself some time to slack off may make you smarter. There’s a fair amount of psychological evidence showing that “rest is not idleness,” as the title of one 2012 paper put it. For example, in a 2010 New York University study, people were better able to recall images they’d been shown when they were allowed a brief rest after viewing the photos. Give yourself a break, and it might end up improving your memory.
Bottom line: From time to time, be sure to kick back, for the sake of your mental and physical health. Here’s a video of a kitten in a tiny hat to get you started.