The Productivity We Crave Starts with Taking Breaks

Often the topic for a new piece of writing like this is something that I’m working on in my own life. Let’s see if this rings a bell for you too.

Lately my personal stretch zone is about the need to take better care of my focus energy for projects that require individual concentration. I’m good at focusing in meetings, but when it comes to individual time on my own projects, I can get so scattered and it feels like those projects never get done. Plus, those days are not fun! Something is off.

This treehouse gives me a soothing reminder of the joy of taking a break.

This treehouse gives me a soothing reminder of the joy of taking a break.

So I’ve been renewing my interest in making conscious choices about my focused creative time. There are a zillion tips out there for being more productive, but for now, let’s just focus in on what’s probably a cornerstone of it all: the importance of rest and taking breaks.

I just heard one study that said the most productive employees in a company took the most breaks. Take that in! (I heard about this study from a new book, 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management.)

I know that our brains can only take so much and we are pushing it past its limits in this screen-focused culture. Umm, taking a “break” to go check email or Facebook is not a refreshing break.

I’m talking about real breaks for our brains — like breathing, stepping outdoors, or sitting with a cup of tea. Simple things! But we sure do resist.

I gotta admit, I’m resisting break time right this minute! I know I need a break because I keep getting the itch to go check email. OK Val, go eat lunch and come back to finish.

Back from My Break and Feeling Better

OK, I’m back from lunch and a little outdoor time in beautiful fall foliage surroundings. I feel nourished by food, rest, and nature. Breathing more slowly too. I can feel that I’m more able to focus and am having more fun writing this! (Lesson: work shouldn’t feel so hard. If it feels hard, something is off.)

I’m glad I’m writing this today because it’s helping me bring my patterns to more consciousness, and it forced me to take that nourishing break just now. Plus I’m now getting this writing done easily!

Your Energy Is the Foundation of Your Success

This focus/energy topic has also been a theme lately in my Introvert SOULpreneur groups. We’re looking at the essential building blocks of success, and it starts with managing your energy and well-being.

It’s too easy to think success is built on good marketing and other outward activities, but we have to start with nourishing what everything is built on: your energy. Like watering a plant.

Are You Avoiding Breaks?

If you’re not stepping away from the computer multiple times a day for a brain break (and taking weekends off), you’re paying for it in foggy thinking, lower productivity, increased frustration, not to mention potential burnout and business failure.

What’s worse is that the less you get done, the more convinced you get that you can’t take a break. Vicious cycle. Yikes, this “can’t stop” cycle is too familiar for me. Is it for you?

Study after study proves it: Taking breaks = more productivity.

So, join me in renewing our commitment to stopping that crazy screen-addictive cycle that eats away at true productivity and fulfillment.

While you’re thinking of it, take a moment right now to step away from the computer for a real break. And then come back to answer the questions below.

Self-Assessment for Your Break Time Needs

Let’s answer these things for ourselves (me included):

  1. What do you usually do when you feel the itch for taking a break (e.g., ignore the instinct, go to email, go outside, stretch)?
  2. What actually refreshes you?
  3. What’s one thing you want to try out in order to improve your focused work time?
  4. Will you do that one thing? When?

If you’re hungry for thinking more about productivity, I recommend listening to Beth Buelow’s Introvert Entrepreneur podcast episode with the author of the 15 Secrets book I mentioned above. I love her show and what he’s talking about.

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