Work related myths like working through lunch and the weekend: Was there a time when you fell for them?
- Way too busy to take a break?
- Annoyed with those who did?
- Considered yourself a master multitasker?
- Times when you prided yourself on skipping or eating lunch at your desk?
- Or decided not to take vacation because there was too much work to do? Too many deadlines?
These are just a few of the myths I bought into during my first three careers. It was only when I started working for myself, and later writing fiction, when I discovered just how vast was the amount of time wasted by not taking breaks, refusing to leave complex tasks undone until tomorrow, when my mind was fresh.
To be fair to myself, when I entered the work force, it was in a job where lives were at stake; where missed cues and errors could mean death. And those rapid, analytic, and focused processing skills learned as a young critical care nurse served me well. Saved some lives. And many of the docs I worked with learned the same lesson: Everything’s a crisis and we act accordingly.
But here’s the thing: real life and death situations are rare. But those learned reactive behaviors, the need to ‘do something…anything,’ is ingrained in many of us. That habit of frenetic activity can be difficult to break until we stop to figure out what the gain is and look candidly at the loss.
When I began to write fiction, I learned, albeit painfully, that I was not the driver, the characters are. And that my greatest bursts of creativity come when I’m tired-even exhausted.
As a writer, I get asked what I think about writers block. I think it doesn’t exist but rather happens when we writers push for words that aren’t yet there. Requiring us to step away from the article, chapter or novel. Maybe for a day, or a week.
And wait for those times when the characters reveal themselves to us, for me that is frequently when I am very tired.
Guess what? My experience is back by research-lots of it.
The research on the need to take breaks is vast and compelling.
Maybe because today is one of those low energy days for me, Pink’s latest post, with his “5 ways to take Effective Breaks” grabbed me.
Here they are, taken from his book, When:
(1) Something beats nothing: the exact ratio of work and rest will vary, but researchers have found that high performers work for fifty-two minutes and then take a seventeen minute break.
(2) Moving beats stationary: microbursts of activity such as walking can improve motivation, concentration and creativity.
(3) Social beats solo: social breaks which involve non-work related conversations with colleagues are better at reducing stress and improving our moods, while also enhancing cooperation and team performance.
(4) Outside beats inside: being closer to nature (even via indoor plants) is better than remaining indoors.
(5) Fully detached beats semidetached: do not try to multitask during your breaks – aim to be completely psychologically and physically detached from your work during this time.
If you’d prefer to see Dan himself, here’s his ‘108 second video’ telling you what I just did.
Think I’ll take a break now…a long one.
Enjoy your Sunday.