Take a Break to be More Productive… Then Relax!

It certainly is a more challenging career than it used to be and somehow, my work year now seems longer. The last time I took a real vacation with no distractions was in 2011 when I went to San Francisco for a week. It took me 2 days to clear my inbox.

As technology seems easier and more accessible to people, with amazing technologies becoming the norm and part of our everyday lives, it has made the job of a “web designer” more challenging than it was, say, 5 years ago.

People expect their desires and ideas “just to work” and with so many more parts to configure, it has meant the learning curve just got a whole lot steeper for the “computer guy in town”. This has squeezed our work days, draining our willpower and ability to solve problems, so it’s important to carve out time to replenish those reserves and make us more productive in the same amount of time. Here are some changes I have made in my work week:

  • “Classical Wednesdays”, have Accuradio.com in the background all day, no podcasts
  • Only check social media at lunchtime, not throughout the day
  • Ride a bike to work from Mondays to Thursdays (helps if you live by the ocean) to think about solutions
  • Play indoor football on Friday lunchtimes with the lads, good for the soul
  • Don’t check email just before I go to bed, it will be there the next morning
  • Don’t respond to client emails on Saturdays or Sundays, they will set expectations from me if I do; wait until Monday

This excellent article by Stephen Caver of Happycog outlines some real techniques during your work day that may help.

The 90-minute Strategy

So, here is my suggestion: break your day up into sessions like those elite violinists. Focus on work deliberately for 90 minutes. Quit your twitter client and block out disruptions as much as possible. Knowing there is a break coming up allows us to zero in and focus intensely on the problems we are trying to solve. You will not be missing too much on Twitter, I promise.

On your breaks, ideally of 15 minutes, step away from work entirely. Take a short walk outside in the fresh air and replenish your energy reserves. You will return to your desk ready to refocus on your work. And I mean really focus. Many times, when I find myself stuck on a particular problem, breaks like this are often followed by the solution. It’s a strategy that designers and writers have long employed to get past a creative block. The benefit of including regimented breaks in your routine is these solutions come much more quickly and regularly.

We are going to try this technique today and hope to be booking that vacation to England in 2014, knowing that the world will not end back at the office.

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Paul Mycroft

Having emigrated from south London, England, Paul has moved between cities in North America, building a loyal following since starting the business back in 2002. Many US and Canadian clients are with him today who were there from day one.