Have you ever sat working at your desk, head down so long it was dark when you next looked outside, then at the end of the day, all that “working” didn’t seem to knock many items off your task list? You aren’t alone. It might seem counterintuitive when you have so much to do, but it’s very important to take breaks during the day, and studies have verified it. Cognition, an international publication that shares papers on the study of our minds, published information on University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign research. The results were quite interesting – when focusing on a particular task, taking a short 5-10 minute break, or incorporating a diversion from work for the same amount of time, once an hour, resulted in not only far less cognitive decline, but better performance, focus, and attention throughout the experiment. Leader of the study, one of the college’s psychology professors, Alejandro Lleras, revealed, "We propose that deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!"
Breaks can re-energize our minds. Maybe you’ll find completely stepping away from anything considered productive to work or your career does the trick for you, like a quick call or text session with a friend to catch up. If you feel twinges of guilt from not being productive – even for a very brief time – then try watching an educational video on YouTube. Have you always wanted to learn a new shortcut in Excel? Want to improve the quality of your podcasts? Did you get an awesome deal on 4 pounds of spinach at Costco and need to figure out what to do with it? YouTube is a plethora of creators speaking on just about every subject you can imagine, and whether you want to spend 3 minutes or 30 minutes, you can probably find a video that is the length of time you care to invest at the moment.
We think there’s a lot of merit and value to this self-care tip, so in future newsletters, we’ll dive deeper into how science backs interspersing short breaks with long periods of work.
Schedule “Me Time”…And Don’t Pencil it in Either!
What do you like to do? What lessens your jaw-clenching and balled-up fists? Whatever it is, make time for it – ideally, daily. You don’t have to do the same stress-relieving, enjoyable activity every single day (unless you want to), but you should be making time regularly to do something you like.
Many entrepreneurs find solace in meditating, tai chi, lying still and focusing on just breathing for a period of time, or journaling. Morning Pages, done right after you wake up, is a form of journaling that Julie Cameron, a best-selling author of over 40 books, created. Dubbed the “Queen of Change” by the New York Times, her method includes writing 3 pages of stream of consciousness, longhand, no edits, no changes. Whatever is in your mind goes on the page – no matter what it is – and the idea is to clear your mind to start your day with a clean slate, which is supposed to make room for clearer thinking, less distractions, and more productivity. If this sounds interesting to you, be sure to catch our October newsletter for more information, as well as feedback from those who have used this type of journaling.
Video games can be a good escape during “me time”. There are two caveats with this fun, immersive short escape from work – the time goes by quickly and it can be competitive. Be sure to set a timer so you don’t go over your designated chunk of time, and remember that you’re not playing the game to win, beat any high score, complete a certain number of levels, or anything similar. This activity is simply a short and fun respite from your workday – that’s it. Whether you play brain teasers on your phone, solitaire on your computer, or a car racing game on a console, as long as you can walk away when the timer goes off, this can be a great tool to revitalize your creativity.