All Work And No Play, Really Does Make Jack A Dull (and Ineffective) Boy

Andy Hab
3 min readSep 15

New research finds support for that old saying

There have been a few pieces of research published in recent years that support the old saying of “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. Or, rather, according to latest research, makes you less happy, and, more surprisingly, less effective. Which kind of seems to defeat the object of working hard. Read on:

So, isn’t working hard a good thing?

Well, of course, we all agree that a certain amount of hard work is a good thing.

And what about achieving things?

Well, sure achieving things is good. But what are you achieving is the question: if you’re just achieving more work that is hardly a recipe for happiness.

So what did these researchers find?

This study looked at attitudes to work and leisure activities in three diverse countries: India, turkey, and the UK. But what is unique about this study is it look at the correlations between fulfilling what they called “self-direction” values i.e. stuff that is just good for you as an individual (such as hobbies), “hedondistic values” such as working hard and earning money, and these correlated to wellbeing. What’s more this was done over nine consecutive days so they were hoping to see how fulfilment leads to further impacts on following days.

And there is an interesting twist in this!

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Ooh, I love a twist, pray, tell me!

Well, let’s state something that might be obvious. Those that aimed to have more freedom and do their personal hobbies reported better sleep quality, higher life satisfaction, and lower stress and anxiety. Not bad.

This might be a good thing but some of you hard workers might also state something like, “Sure, but it won’t help you in the long run. Let’s sacrifice a bit of short-term pleasure for a long-term satisfaction.”

Admittedly this study was not a long-term study but it does show something else that was surprising:

Those people who had fulfilled their self-direction goals on one day (such as…

Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!