This summer, time has been on my mind. Or rather, the lack of it nipped at my heels. At my day job, I never seemed to have enough of it.

Days quickly melted into nights. My reasoning desperately sought to squeeze more work time out of the day, despite diminishing marginal returns.  If I left work 15 minutes before 9:00 p.m., I could be sure to get a decent salad at a Cosi, a quick food place, before ducking into the subway. After I got home and scarfed down my dinner, I would get back to work on many nights. This recipe for getting more work done left me feeling fried to a crisp. It’s perhaps an extreme example of behavior best avoided if you want to feel whole. It’s symptomatic of a larger trend.

We are hurrying through our lives instead of actually living them, says author Carl Honoré. In our culture, it can be hard to slow down. “Slow” is another word for slacker or not too bright. Yet Honoré notes that cramming more and more into our days can take a toll on our lives, whether it’s relationships, communities, or work. “We’re living the fast life instead of the good life,” he said in a TED talk in praise of slowness.

In much of the western world, work hours are dropping, he says. North America is an unfortunate exception.

People find that their quality of life goes up when they work less. “Nordic countries show it’s possible to have a kick-ass economy without being workaholics,” says Honoré.

He notes that Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland rank among the top six most competitive nations on earth. Yet they work the kind of hours that would make the “average American weep with envy.”

It’s true. I checked the numbers from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. Assuming a person works 7.5 hours a day, Americans work about 10 more weeks than Norwegians (47.6 vs. 37.4 weeks). American work about 5 weeks more than the Swedes.

We all need time to recharge and let our brains refresh and slip into a more creative mode. But that won’t happen as long as we press it to perform. Relaxing will bring the sparks of creativity back. We will dream again.