Taking time to do nothing often brings everything into perspective. Doe Zantamata
“Alright, let’s go walk on the pier,” my wife announces. It is late in the afternoon. Our Australian Labradoodle, River – who completely understands southern drawl English—is already up and jumping like crazy at the door! One of his favorite things to do is to walk on our 960-foot pier that protrudes over the wetlands, ending at Alligator Bayou. The attraction is the marshland, with its distinctive smell and its habitation for numerous live critters and animals. Occasionally, this peaceful walk is interrupted by the cry of one of the local resident birds who has set up camp on the pier, as he is chased away by River, who proudly reminds the wetland family that this is our wharf.
Carol’s pronouncement is a response to my recent encouragement to get her to take an exercise break from the computer or watching television. I wrote about the importance of activity interludes in a previous newsletter edition titled Pause; and often emphasize the need for a daily respite when speaking to an audience. Dr. Stephen Covey, a prolific author, in his most familiar work, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, calls it “sharpening the saw.” Sir Winston Churchill took rest to a serious level – he had a nap every single day.
Based on numerous recent studies, specifically, the length of time at work, the length of actual breaks and what you do during your breaks, really matter.
In the practice of consciously interrupting our concentration on one subject, many of us (me included) unconsciously simply just navigate into another activity – catching up on email, checking the latest posts on Facebook, or other frequented social media outlet. The problem with such breaks is that they are not really a true rest at all. The brain is still in gear, thereby not getting an effective level of rest it really needs.
Carol has always enjoyed taking time to do absolutely nothing. And yet, folks who are not in perpetual motion are often scorned by others. In fact, we may define them as being lazy and unproductive. Sometimes they are described as people who will never amount to anything in life. Sounds familiar to you? It does to me, and unfortunately, I have led this false charge against others in my distant past.
In a world cluttered with competing goals and voluminous tasks, the kind of breaks that will support our success are like pier-walking. Chatting with someone, reading a non-challenging book, or taking an outside walk in nature are good choices. A walk across the wetlands is perfect!
Take a deep breath . . . notice the smells and sights. Declutter. Vanquish the focus on busyness. Get outside. Enjoy nature. Try to think of nothing that is pressing. This is hard to do in today’s world. And five minutes is not enough time.
Personally speaking, I am definitely a work-in-progress, and have determined to improve in this area . . . another task in an ever-growing list. But, perhaps, a wise choice that will make a difference in my life.
At the end of the day, I want to be productive in getting important things done. But to do that, I need a strategy. And that strategy includes taking meaningful regular breaks and limiting sustained work effort.
In the Inc. Magazine article, How to Take Breaks Effectively (and Maximize Your Productivity), current studies suggest adopting a pattern of 52 minutes of work followed by 17 minutes for a break. Wow! If you are currently employed, your employer would probably balk at that much time of rest after less than an hour of work. Do you agree? In our busy world, very few would support actually implementing the suggestions of these studies. Sounds almost radical, does it not?
But, success is often achieved by a different path. People who take an unusual road are those who are known and respected for their achievements.
We need more than five=minute breaks to lead the highly successful lives we desire and expect. What success principles can we extract?
Work less time
The benefit for me is pretty simple. For my most productive day, given the realities of modern day lives, I should strive to . . .
limit total time of each work segment, and
take meaningful breaks between segments.
We do not need scientists or new studies to tell us when we are not being productive. We just need awareness. All of us have been down the road when we notice that our efforts are not getting desirable, expected results. At that moment, the success principle is simple and right in front of us. Take a break.
Today, I will build my success on productive work.
I will build my productive work on real rest.
Give me a break!
Thanks, I think I will do just that.