Summary: A post about ‘strategic’ breaks. (whatever the heck strategic means.) Let’s say a different look at taking breaks.
I have never been a fan of deadlines. While they are very helpful to get things done, they also stifle thinking . The ‘creative’ thought we apply during under a deadline is a shortcut – ask for help from google or go out on a limb to finish the task. Realistic deadlines have become an oxymoron. Over the years, cramming more work into lesser time has become a norm. Moore’s law doesn’t work for man!Its unrealistic to say deadlines don’t work. Its realistic though to say you can make them work for you.
The single biggest idea that has worked for me is:
taking a break!
I was working on a lot of information last week to the point of frustration. If you are a part of the workforce, this is no new experience. I realized I was working on something for three hours straight. I did not want to get up until I was finished. This is the mistake I made; a common mistake we all make. We do not want to lose the train of thought, the flow. We work believing this long period of undisturbed time will provide results. It will provide results;only if we had taken those regular breaks, the results would have been quicker.
Now, there is no right time to take this break. That is a reason we don’t really take one. Scheduled breaks work, but only to an extent. Under a deadline, scheduling these breaks may not just happen. What I do rather is take a break if I have spent longer than usual trying to solve a particular problem. That disturbs my problem-solving train of thought you may argue, but that is the point. This crucial juncture, the one where we most resist the break is the one we need to hack. You need this deliberate disturbance. Think of it like this. The break is like a pit stop. You resist taking it because you are racing against time. But, you need to take it to finish the race. A pit-stop is only as good as the efficiency of the pit-crew. This brings me to the crux of this post – What is an efficient break?
There are three things that you could do during these breaks to make them efficient:
1. Move: You need to get up! You need the blood flow. You should not slump back into your chair for the next 3 minutes. Take a walk. I use this time to get some water from the farthest dispenser even if my bottle is full. \
2. Air: Nothing like getting some fresh air. I understand your office space may not really be the most air-friendly, being locked on all sides. Just getting out of that air-tight space for a couple of minutes will serve the purpose. Whatever the setup, just leave the office for a minute. Your break does not have to happen inside office.
3. Disconnect: Your laptop and phone are banned during the breaks. Checking you mail is not taking a break! Leave your smartphone behind during your break. Leaning on the smartphone has become more of a ritual now.
If you are still not convinced and believe it might affect your flow, spend your break-time thinking about the problem you are trying to solve. But move, get the air and disconnect. The thinking cannot happen at your desk. This has worked for me many times. Like some time back, when I was not sure what to write next in this post, that is precisely what I did. I came back knowing exactly what to write next. Time for a break? Go MAD – move, air and disconnect.
Written in September 2015.