For as long as I can remember I have punctuated my day with regular ‘thinking breaks’.
I don’t know when I started this habit or how I learned it. I only know that as far back in my working career as I can remember I have stopped mid-morning and mid-afternoon(ish) to switch off by reading or jotting down a few ideas. If I couldn’t manage it for any reason then I’d stop on my way home, in a park, pub or on the beach, for 20 to 30 minutes.
When I was younger there was often something slightly furtive about these grabbed respites. They were tainted by a feeling of guilt, as if I’d been playing hookey.
As I got older though I learned to value these moments away from the coal-face of work demands. I learned to use the breaks, to reflect and plan, or to catch up on the backlog of ‘things to read later’ that has been a permanent feature of any desk I’ve ever occupied.
Of course, there have been many days when I have not been able to take these thinking breaks as or when intended. As time went on though I increasingly found that if I neglected this habit for too long, I suffered.
I have come to think of this pattern as the punctuation that helps me make sense of my days. One of the key aspects of this habit is that the busier I am, the more important these breaks are and the more they must be protected.
What to do?
- Aim to punctuate your day with at least five short breaks – anything between two and 10 minutes will do it – and it helps to move. Get away from whatever you are doing, breath, and make a conscious effort to change your focus of attention for a few minutes. You’ll find mental and physical energy levels improve, and productivity and creativity will be enhanced as well.
- Hit the ‘pause button’. Take some time to stop and think, in a structured way, about how your day is going.
- See this article: The Path to Productivity: Short Hours, More Breaks