To do lists are endless. There’s always something to do. I have a bad habit of stressing over things I have to do tomorrow.
Stressing over all the things I haven’t done, all the things I should be doing – so much that a break isn’t relaxing, it’s procrastination, keeping my mind busy so I don’t think about the responsibility-monster hiding under the desk.
Is this productive? No. Does it actually hinder productivity? Yes.
An alternative strategy is strict discipline. Strapping yourself to the desk, blocking all distracting sites and not stopping for anything, not even when your fingers starts to bleed from your furious typing.
This is how I used to think – breaks are unproductive, so you should feel guilty every second you’re not working.
Does this sound more productive? No, not really. I mean, you get something done, but you don’t feel that good. It’s really exhausting, and impossible to keep up in the long run.
WHY YOU NEED TO TAKE A BREAK
Your mind is not a machine – you can’t just plug yourself in at the desk and then work at 100% capacity constantly.
For maximum productivity, we need to alternate between periods of highly focused work and resting or fun.
Let’s have a look at some research: A german study looked at how some of the best violinist practice, and found that their sessions never lasted more than 60-90 minutes at a time, with a total daily practice time at 4.5 hours.
NAPS DOESN’T MEAN YOUR LAZY
Another thing the violinists did, was take naps – 20 to 30 minutes every afternoon. And not because they didn’t get enough sleep at night, as they got an average of over 8 hours.
Naps aren’t for everyone (where do you get all that energy!) but it helps me after a long day with classes at uni. I am not ready to study and do homework. I need some food, and I need a nap before I feel refreshed and ready to work (or work out).
But remember to set an alarm so a 20 minute nap doesn’t suddenly turn into 4 hours.
You might think 20 minutes is a short time, what if I can’t fall asleep? I don’t always manage to fall asleep. For me it helps to put on some relaxing music, and just allow my mind to wander, gently pushing thoughts about work and responsibilities away for a time – kind of like meditating.
While researching for this post, I also learned that even NASA pilots take 40 minute naps because it improves their reaction time. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to be like a NASA pilot?
TIME YOUR WORK TIME
Have a look at your to-do list. Decide what you want to do in the next 60-90 minutes – be realistic.
Look at the clock, or set a timer.
When the time is up, get up.
Walk around, refill your water bottle or coffee cup, go outside for some fresh air, stretch, chat with someone, watch a youtube video, check your social media (so you’re not tempted to do it while you are supposed to be productive).
Stay away from the bad cycle of being half productive, half procrastinating on twitter, and fully stressing about everything you have to do – it just make you feel tired, without getting as much done.
Give your mind a proper break, and after a little while, you’re ready to tackle the next 90 minute hurdle.
Reading this post was a pretty good start! Unless your work is to read my blog, in which case – when can I come in for an interview? Please hire me.
What do you do to be productive? Am I the only one who loves afternoon naptime?