Article by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead.
What if you could get more done by working less? Everyone wants that, right?
But that’s obviously not the way most of us work. We think that in order to get more done and be more productive, we need to increase our effort and time.
That’s the obvious, intuitive answer. But the less obvious — the counter-intuitive approach of working less and taking more breaks — gets better results.
Instead of increasing the amount of time you work, try to increase the quality of the time you work. Focus on single-tasking and eliminating distractions. Train yourself to focus on one thing for a designated period of time. 30 minutes is usually a good starting point.
Then focus on taking breaks that rejuvenate you and recover your ability to focus. You may be resistant to this idea at first; taking breaks is seen as lazy and counterproductive. Warriors push through it and suck it up, right? Maybe, but they’re also the ones with the shortest careers, who burn out the fastest.
By taking a relaxing and regenerative break at least every 90 minutes, you increase your capacity to do more work. Just like your muscles need to relax after they tense up, you need to relax after short bursts of focused work. Obviously you don’t want to only take breaks. There needs to be a balance and a blend of relaxation and focused effort. But it’s amazing how many people forget the relaxation aspect.
I used to be this way. I thought if I worked through lunch, took no breaks and just pushed through it, I would get more done. But what happens is that after a few hours, I’m drained and lose the ability to focus. I end up multi-tasking, becoming easily distracted and default to doing unimportant busywork. I’m running on one or two cylinders instead of all six. But if I took short, rejuvenating breaks, I’d allow my body and mind to recover and regain ability to fire on all cylinders.
In short, when you don’t take breaks and allow yourself to recover, you’re less than 50% there. 50% you = 50% work.
It’s obvious that taking short, rejuvenating breaks is the more effective way to work. So what are some examples of these types of breaks?
- Change channels. Most of us do a lot of work on the computer, so doing some kind of physical activity for 10 or 15 minutes can be a great way to change our state. Bodyweight exercises, a brisk walk, or yoga can be a great way to get your body moving and put yourself in a different state.
- Breathe. Do 10 or 15 minutes of meditation, focused on your breathing.
- 30 second headstand. Support your feet and legs against a sturdy wall (or tree).
- Juice it. Stop by your local health food store and get a wheat grass shot or vegetable juice.
- Refuel. Eating some kind of snack or small meal every 90 minutes is a great way to keep your glucose and energy levels steady. Go for fresh, organic fruit or a salad to get a quick pick-me-up.
- Power nap. A 20 minute nap in the afternoon feels awesome and rejuvenating.
- Motivate. Take a time out and listen to a Paraliminal session, guided meditation or personal development video on YouTube.
- Flood your body with consciousness. This is something I’ve been doing lately that’s been really working for me. Take 10 minutes out to lie on your bed and flood your body with consciousness. Focus your awareness first on your toes and feet, then gradually move your focus up through your body, into your legs, pelvis, torso, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands and fingers. Then back up through your arms into your neck, up your throat and into your face and your head. Really focus on feeling the energy in your body and only move your conscious awareness up your body after you’ve really felt it in the last part.
- Total relaxation. This is a follow up to flooding your body with consciousness. After you’ve completely immersed your body in awareness, focus on relaxing each muscle in your body. In the same way previously, start with your toes and work your way upward through your body. Really let go and relax.
These are just a few ideas for ways that you can really relax, recover, and rejuvenate your body. Once you do that, you’ll be re-focused, recharged, and ready to work at 100% capacity.
What’s your favorite 5-10 minute rejuvenating or recharging break?
This article was written by Zen Habits contributor Jonathan Mead of Illuminated Mind.