By Drue Lawlor, FASID
Director of Coaching, Gail Doby Coaching & Consulting & Design Success University
“Sometimes the best way to recharge our batteries is to unplug them.”
How do you feel at the end of most workdays? Do you find yourself stressed and exhausted, feeling as if you have worked hard all day – yet you don’t feel as if you have been very productive? If I were to tell you that you need to allow for more breaks during the day, you would probably respond with “I don’t have time” or “I have too much to do.”
Yet there is increased evidence that shows taking regular breaks – particularly from mental tasks – improves productivity and creativity, and that same research has proven that eliminating those breaks can lead to stress and exhaustion.
From Scientific American we learn that “research on naps, meditation, nature walks and the habits of exceptional artists and athletes reveals how mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.”
According to John P. Trougakos, an assistant management professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough and the Rotman School of Management, mental concentration is similar to a muscle. He states that just like a muscle, mental concentration becomes fatigued after continuous use and needs a period of rest before it can recover, just as you need to rest between sets at the gym.
Everyone on your team (including you!) needs to remove themselves from the work and the work area in order to recharge during the day. It might be different for every member of your team but some options include: getting outside and walking, taking a short nap, meditation, reading a book outside or in another room or taking a coffee break – or the very important lunch break which offers an opportunity to recharge both nutritionally as well as mentally.
And the proven advantages of mental breaks extend to the need for vacations. No matter where your vacation is spent the key is to completely “disconnect”. If you are constantly checking emails, texts, etc. then it’s not a vacation – you are just working “offsite”!
Just the act of incorporating these simple breaks into your work life has been proven to sharpen the mind. Just as many physiological processes occur when we are asleep, there are important mental processes that require “downtime” and other forms of rest during the day. This “downtime” is necessary to replenish the brain and encourage productivity and creativity. Many of the best ideas related to work happen away from work. Haven’t you found that while disconnected from work a creative solution suddenly begins to form in your mind, or you find the answer to that problem with which your mind had been struggling?
After all, Albert Einstein is thought to have conceived the theory of relativity while riding his bicycle. So remember that long hours don’t mean good work – productive work is promoted by incorporating breaks away from work as they will encourage those flashes of genius that we are all after!
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