Want to be creative? Slack off.

Anne Fisher ("Be smarter at work, slack off," Fortune Magazine) writes,

In a world of too much work and too much multitasking, the best way to beat the competition may be to do less.

Although talking about businesses remaining competitive in a global economy, Fisher's article is pertinent to any endeavor. That is,

it's really, really hard, if not impossible, for the human brain to come up with fresh new ideas when its owner is overworked, overtired, and stressed out.

Fisher quotes Peter Drucker,

The late Peter Drucker agreed. He wrote in The Effective Executive (an eerily prescient 40 years ago), "All one can think and do in a short time is to think what one already knows and to do as one has always done." Gulp.

Moreover, in Drucker's view, simply working longer and longer hours won't help. "To be effective, every knowledge worker, and especially every executive...needs to dispose of time in fairly large chunks," he wrote. "To have small dribs and drabs of time at his disposal will not be sufficient even if the total is an impressive number of hours."

Fisher cites a study by University of Michigan psychologists that shows that multi-tasking leads to inefficiency ranging from 20% to 40% due to the time needed to redirect and refocus one's attention. Other psychologists have found that

The unconscious mind is a terrific solver of complex problems when the conscious mind is busy elsewhere or, perhaps better yet, not overtaxed at all.

Despite the research and common sense behind the notion that having free time leads to more productivity and creativity, consider the work schedules of medical interns, untenured professors, and students who maintain a full course load (and more) while working full time. Any solutions?