Our timeblocks demand our utmost attention and focus, but if we want to be our most productive selves, it’s important to work in a regular dose of levity.
There’s nothing like the feeling of being 100 percent focused on the task at hand. Sometimes when we get into a high state of focus, it can be tough to take a break. Seconds quickly turn to minutes, minutes quickly turn to hours, and if we’re not careful, we can end up spending more time on something than we intended—with little to show for it.
Like we’ve talked about recently, more hours doesn’t equate to more productivity. Progress is made when we spend our time effectively and efficiently on what matters most. When we regularly spend more time than we should on any task, we risk eventually burning out.
When burnout happens, we’re often tempted to push through in an effort maintain pace, but instead we end up digging ourselves into a hole. The further we push, the deeper we fall, until we’re left frustrated and on-edge. While it may seem harmless, the resulting stress can actually have an adverse effect on your health. With links to conditions like obesity heart disease, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and asthma, it’s clear that constantly putting our nose to the grindstone isn’t worth it.
Know when it’s Time to Recharge
Our energy isn’t limitless. When we start each day, our batteries are fully charged and ready to go. As we go through our day, everything we do, think and feel takes a little bit of that energy away from us, until we become tired and exhausted. The best way to help our energy up is to take a break, have a laugh, and let our mind and body rest.
Research has continually shown that people who take more breaks are more productive than their “self-disciplined” counterparts. So while it may seem like taking a break is the most unproductive thing a person can do, the truth of the matter is that it might be the most helpful thing someone can do. Like a marathon, your ONE Thing will ultimately be won by pacing yourself, not sprinting. Instead of trying to go as hard as you possibly can for as long as you can, try figuring out how far your energy will take you and what you can do to recharge it.
The trick to learning when you’ll need to refuel is a simple matter of consistency. When our time blocks become a regular occurrence, we can begin to plan around our body’s natural rhythm. The signs that it might be time to take a break aren’t the same for everyone, but here are a few sure-fire clues that it might be time to cool your jets:
- Letting your thoughts wander aimlessly
- Reading the same sentences over and over again
- Blurry eyesight
- A general feeling of malaise
- Squirming in your chair
- Short term memory loss
If you begin experiencing any of these symptoms thirty to forty minutes into a routine time block on a regular basis, it might be time to take a cue from the movie Inception and plan a time block within your time block.
Layering your time blocks so they include short breaks can mean the difference between a productive or destructive day. Set up alerts and alarms just before your energy wanes so you can invigorate yourself pre-emptively. The longer the timeblock—the more breaks you need to schedule.
To keep yourself on track, come into your block of time prepared with your distraction of choice. Bring in the news article you wanted to read that morning but didn’t have time for, a delicious snack, or a piping hot cup of coffee (don’t worry, it will cool down by the time you’re ready to drink it). Even if the distraction only lasts for fifteen minutes, the benefits will pay dividends when you come back to your work, sharp, invigorated and stress-free.