Productive Doing Nothing

Today is the first day of my sabbatical.

As I tell people about taking a sabbatical, many say, “I am jealous!”

What’s funny is the part of me that tends to overwork would just as soon never stop working. But it turns out frequent breaks (even if they aren’t four months long) contribute to higher functioning. 

Yes, you workaholics read that right. More breaks equal better work.

I realize it’s tough to just drop everything and take time off. Extraordinary circumstances are allowing me to do it. But everyone can, and must, take more frequent breaks.

Read on for more information about how you can start doing this, today.

You can follow the progress of my break here. Sign up at the right for “Making It Real.”

Thanks again for reading.

Productive Doing Nothing 

A fellow coach has been talking to me about taking breaks every day at work. She suggests working for 50 minutes and then taking a 10-minute break.

That’s a break every hour!

I’ve been “working” on this, and while I have to admit I haven’t hit anything near work-break nirvana, I’ve made some progress.  Taking these short breaks has helped me recognize the need for a larger one (hence, this sabbatical; bear in mind, though, tiny breaks in your day don’t have to equal a four-month break)   .

The benefits of frequent breaks happens to be supported by a lot of brain research. Breaks make us more productive, not less. Who knew?         

Here is some guidance from an article on the Huffington Post, about daily work breaks. Summarized, it says:

1. Take a 10-minute break at least every 90 minutes.

2. During this break go for a quick walk or at least move around. Don’t jump on Facebook or Twitter. Bonus points if you can actually walk outside.

3. This next one is tough but if you can, take a 30 minute nap at lunch.

4. Make a real connection with another person. (See item #2–posting on their Facebook wall doesn’t count).

5. Avoid screens of all kinds. This means no cell phone, tablet or computer during your break.

6. And finally meditate, or be mindful, for 10 minutes.

Obviously you can’t cram all of the above into 10 minutes, but during the day you can rotate through them, trying something different each time. Except the nap, all these suggestions are pretty easy to execute, whether you work for yourself or for someone else.

The Next Frontier

Once you’ve mastered taking breaks during the day, the next challenge is to take a real vacation. This article has some brilliant suggestions for ways to lay the groundwork so you don’t have to work on your vacation. 

The most insidious vacation invader is email; the author lays out a plan to prepare people for your absence, so you don’t come back to a four-foot stack of unanswered messages.

This is harder to do for a small business owner, especially if you’re solo and you can’t get the right person to cover for you. But there is also some research that shows shorter vacations taken more frequently can also help.

You may not be able to drop everything for four months, but you can start letting more air and light into your work life immediately.

If you want to watch a sabbatical unfold in real time, subscribe to my blog (sign up for “Making It Real” to the right of this post). I’d also like to hear how you have implemented breaks, long or short, into your work. Comment below


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