Getting Your Act(ions) Together: About Working Productively

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Gerry and Lionel were in the same graduate study group. Lionel put in at an extra five or six hours of study a day, while Gerry spent much of his free time relaxing. In terms of intelligence, nobody would dispute the fact that Lionel was smarter, but in the end, Gerry received an “A,” Lionel a “B.” When it came to the exam, could it be that Lionel had overdone it and burned out, while Gerry remained fresh and alert?


Everyone knows that hard and diligent work often pays off, but many believe that the harder one works the more he or she will achieve.

We are told: “Keep your nose to the grindstone! ” Frankly, we’ve never believed this expression ~ unless someone wanted to whittle down or saw off his or her nose.

Of course, behind this awkward metaphor lies the notion that one should not goof off. But psychological studies show that

• a certain degree of goofing off is good for you and will make you more, not less, productive.

Studies conducted on what is called “massed practice” versus “distributed practice” almost always show that people who use massed practice accomplish less than those who use distributed practice.

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Massed practice means sticking to a task without taking a break or having a rest, virtually working around the clock. Such hard workers usually find that after a while, fatigue by-products build up in their bodies so that they have to exert more and more effort to achieve worthwhile results.

Distributed practice refers to the strategy of taking short but fairly frequent breaks. You stop what you are doing and take a ten-minute walk, or call a friend, or do some relaxation exercises, or carry out some other activity that differs from the task you are working at. Those who use distributed practice are able to break the monotony, replenish their energy levels and keep working at a faster and more productive pace.

Distributed practice allows you to get rid of the metaphorical cobwebs, and you accomplish more in the long run (and make fewer mistakes) and feel more energetic and alert when you return to the task.

So the formula for successful and productive work is:

• Don’t keep on going hour after hour without interruption.

• Goof off a little every now and then and get rid of the lactic acid and other fatigue products (chemicals) in your bloodstream.

• Work smarter—not harder or longer!


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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