Want to be productive? Take a break…

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes... including you.    
- Anne Lamott

Are you taking healthy breaks while you work?  Are you taking any breaks at all?  The isolation that has accompanied a lot of the new normal work environments has set a stage that could easily remove something we all need to do throughout the day.  Take a break.

Though there was a lot of uncertainty early on, several our clients have actually been observing an uptick in productivity by many of their employees who are now working remotely.  In many cases, their remote/home offices allow them to get in the zone and complete more work with less interruptions. 

The exceptions to this are those working in an area where they are not able to separate themselves from others.  So step number one really is defining a “work space” even if there are no walls or doors separating you from potential interruptions.  There have been 100’s of articles written on this topic over the last 6 months.  If you’re still be challenged with creating a workspace, please reach out.  We’d be happy to direct you to professionals that can assist you.

No matter how much you love your work there is a point where the law of diminishing returns takes over.   You often hear professional athletes talk about training in the zone, but there is a limitation of how long the body can do that, a point where more effort does more harm to the body than good.  The body needs a break.   The same is true when we dive into our work – even if that ‘work’ is talking on the phone, meeting in Zoom, or just email.  Even self-professed workaholics need occasionally breaks to recharge their batteries.

The bottom line is without breaks at some point something has to give.  Even those who passionately love what they can’t keep their foot on the gas 24/7.   Burnout, exhaustion, fatigue eventually set in.  Breaks are needed. 

But not all breaks are productive. If a break isn’t productive it often ends up negatively impacting the work we are so dedicated to instead of helping it.   Basically, it’s like an athlete training hard for a competition and then eating fried food, beer, and a box of Twinkies between each workout.  Not exactly a productive break!

Simple ways to take productive breaks…

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Do something productive during your break

Sometimes resting your eyes for a few minutes is the best medicine but trying to do something productive during a break can keep the positive energy flowing.   Scanning the latest news feed on social media probably isn’t going to fuel your mind or body with much positive energy.   However, some quick cleaning, a short walk in fresh air, or even a quick call to check in on an elderly relative turn your break time into a productive time.

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Time block and plan your breaks.

There are times when deadlines are dictating schedules, but you can’t work 12 hours straight without taking breaks.   A simple suggestion is to plan some breaks into your day.  Even it they are only 5 or 10 minutes breaks.   Don’t push the envelope on how far apart you have them.   If anything take the break before you’re at that tipping point.   The time to add fuel (or charge your Tesla) is before it completely runs dry on the interstate! 

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Leave your work at a cliff hanger

From TV series to Marvel movies we know that cliff hangers work.  We can’t wait for the next season to start, the next movie to come out.   One of the challenges with breaks if there isn’t structure around them is they can unintentionally run long…you call that elderly relative to check in and they have all day to talk!   If you can take a break when you’re at a stage where you’re looking forward to the next phase of the project, you are essentially leaving a cliff hanger.  You are anxious to get back instead of dreading to get back.

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Reward your hard work

We talk about this all the time with employees.  But don’t forget to give yourself rewards too.  Similar to the athlete, it doesn’t have to be a big plate of greasy fried food, maybe it is the next episode of a series you’re streaming.  Typically, this is a larger reward, the one you would save for the end of the project, the weekly business blog you’re writing 😉 or something like that.

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What about you?  Do you get hyper-focused on your work and forget to take break?  If you’re working from home are you finding you get more done in less time?   Are breaks a part of daily, weekly schedule?   Are they productive?   As always, we love to hear your thoughts in the space below.

Chris Steinlage Kansas City Business Coach

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