Yes, I am that guy who packs his lunch everyday so that I can keep working and don’t have to leave my office. I am also the guy that will postpone getting another glass of water for an hour because I don’t want to waste those 90 seconds.
I guess I should say, I used to be that guy. Now don’t get me wrong. I still pack my lunch – turkey sandwich anyone? But boy have I learned first-hand the magic of taking breaks which allow me to reset and recharge.
It didn’t come easy! For years I had read countless “experts” tout the importance of downtime. The necessity of unplugging from technology to give your brain a much needed break which only then would allow for maximum productivity. But it seemed counter intuitive to me.
My “to do list” is never empty. I always have more to get to. But I realized that while I might have been “in front of my computer”, that didn’t mean I was actually being productive or producing work at my highest level. It didn’t even mean I was actually working!
When I really decided to take an honest look at my productivity, I realized that I was taking plenty of “breaks” to check out ESPN, Twitter, email, you get the idea. The problem was, those breaks didn’t re-energize me and in my five minute journal I kept noticing a recurring theme of low productivity in the afternoons.
I decided to experiment and try out some of the things I have been reading about over the years. I committed to scheduling in my breaks and holding myself to it. It didn’t take long to win me over as a believer (why didn’t I do this earlier!)
Our brains and bodies aren’t much different than that of a high performance race car. In order to get the best performance, you can’t run your engine at full speed without taking pit stops along the way.
Now these pit stops only take a few seconds for Indy or NASCAR drivers, but they have 11 individuals performing key roles and there are multiple pit stops throughout the race. Without them they would never reach the finish line.
You need to perform pit stop maintenance as well!
It can vary by individual, but there is only so long you can fully focus on an activity before you start experiencing diminishing returns.
I now focus on working in 90 minute to 2 hour blocks at a time. I have found that I can get more done with better quality in 90 minutes than I was previously accomplishing in 3 hours. My energy is better and I have a sense of urgency that greatly improves my focus.
After my time block is up, I take a break. But not just any break. Surfing the web doesn’t count. Staring at your smart phone doesn’t count. I leave my office, walk outside and take a complete technology break for at least 15 minutes.
The featured picture for this post is a picture I took on my afternoon break today. That fountain is located across the street from my office. After walking for 10 minutes I sat down, set my phone timer for 5 minutes and did a quick meditation. I simply focused on calming my mind and resetting myself to get back to work.
Before my break I had started to reach a feeling of overwhelm and I could feel my productivity slipping. In just 15 minutes I was able to reset myself for my next time block.
Those 15 minute pit stops have become a critical investment throughout the day that has paid huge dividends and allows me to get more done, but most importantly aid in me producing my best work.
So I challenge you to give it a shot! What routines can you experiment with to design what works best for you?
Your partner in success,