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5 Reasons for Us to Stop Thinking

5 Reasons for Us to Stop Thinking

Everyone has an opinion in today’s tightly connected, always-moving, overloaded and uncertain world. How do people get their opinions? By thinking—at least a little bit. Walk up to just about anyone on the street, ask them about a recent public event, and they’re likely to have some thoughts already formed about the topic. We all develop opinions because we all have individual lives, and nearly everyone likes to shape their opinion to fit who they already are.

We also want to live a certain type of life, and our opinions blend into our future goals. In order to plan a goal, some thinking is required, because a fulfilling goal will not simply achieve itself. What I’m here to challenge, however, is the notion that thinking too much or too often can actually become a hindrance. As someone who loves thinking, this is strange for me to hear and stranger still for me to write, but it’s a concept we can all benefit from. Prioritizing implementation over thinking can yield incredible results.

1. Don’t think. Listen!

Listening is an incredibly underrated and rarely experienced state (or action) in today’s societies. People are working more hours now than throughout most of human history (primal humans engaged in recreational socialization for roughly six hours every day). Sadly, we’re seeing the effects of this. It’s commonplace now to see restaurants packed to the brim from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. without a single person engaged in peaceful reflection.

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The catch here is not to think too much about when, where or how to listen, but simply to listen. Think just long enough to find a time when you can listen intently, then listen. Pay attention to a river, creek or lakeside. Listen to birds chirping early in the morning. Listen to the far-off hum of cars late at night. Or, simply listen to silence. There’s so much peace and vitality to be gained in taking time to listen.

2. Don’t think. Feel.

When is the last time you thought about what you want to do with your life over the next 2-5 years? Was it during your first job? Back in college? Perhaps all the way back in high school? Whenever you did your most recent deep contemplations about life, you may not have gotten the results you wanted. You may have accepted a job that hasn’t truly fulfilled you, or perhaps you’re still on the path to the job you want.

Before you think too much about it, though, ask yourself this: “Am I really feeling out what I want to do?” This may sound like a foolish question on the surface, but in all reality, the best results in life come from emotionally convicted decisions. It takes guts to face your true feelings about your future and come out with a decision you’re set on. So, do yourself a favor and feel your way through life’s current questions.

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3. Don’t think. Observe.

Closely related to listening is observation. In fact, people who are skilled with one are typically skilled with both. They’re so closely tied to each other that you can most often do them simultaneously. They provide you with the power to see and gather things you couldn’t before.

A business owner can think he knows what his customers want, but he won’t really know until he takes enough time to watch and listen to them as they mill about a store, commenting on likes and dislikes. A dad who has been away serving the army can think he knows who his daughter has become, but he won’t really know until he’s back home, watching her interact with the whole family again. An individual can think they know what the solution is to a problem, but they won’t really know until they spend enough time in the according scenario to gather enough information.

Observation is one of the most powerful skills you can obtain, second only to listening. Rather than automatically assuming you know the answer to something, take two hours (or more, if you want) to observe the appropriate situation. This way, you’ll be far more familiar with the people involved and the best way to get a solution going.

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4. Don’t think. Rest.

Rest is a gift that most people desperately need and want. The ragged single mother, the overworked college student, the melancholy grandfather, the hyperactive businessman, the nightclub owner, the schedule-packed grade-schooler and everyone in-between. Everyone needs rest now and then; it’s literally impossible to lead a healthy life without it. The benefits of proper sleep and rest have been long touted, so anyone who avoids these recommendations does so at their own peril.

Before your next day, it’s all too tempting to think about what you need to accomplish and in what order. We can quite honestly think ourselves sick if we think too much about what needs to be done. As the great writer Sydney J. Harris once said, “The best time to rest is when you don’t have time for it”.

5. Don’t think. Believe.

Just like opinions, everyone has beliefs on various subjects. Some people have limiting beliefs, other people have empowering beliefs. Regardless of where you stand on a given spectrum, your beliefs shape the actions you’ll take.

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While this post is not predominantly about action or how to achieve something, it’s challenging to argue the premise that one’s preconceptions and inherent notions about life (and themselves) are directly related to their outcomes.

This is why shaping and then acting on the beliefs you already hold is so critical. A belief can only remain a belief if it is tested and holds true. For example, someone could believe the ocean is red, but when they see the ocean, their belief is most likely to be changed.

What does this have to do with the subheading, though? The key is to strengthen the beliefs you already have. In this case, thinking and believing aren’t necessarily worlds apart, but you have to know what you believe—and then believe with conviction—before you can act.

These are five ways you can harness the power of putting different mindsets into practice. This week, rather than thinking about something too much, use one of these prompts to change how you’d approach a situation, and watch how your results transform.

Featured photo credit: Ponder by AleXander Agopian via Flickr via flickr.com

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Brad Johnson

Top 5 Kindle Author | Author of 10 Books

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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