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Stepping Away From Your Work Skillfully Can Trick Your Brain To Be More Productive

Stepping Away From Your Work Skillfully Can Trick Your Brain To Be More Productive

Do you work long hours believing it’s the most effective way to get your tasks completed? If you do, then you’re not alone – it’s a common perception held by many that ultimate performance is achieved through time and effort and often think this is how to be more productive in our work life.

Our productivity is like a rubber band stretching to its capacity. Working harder is adding extra stretch to the rubber band but it’s futile because the rubber band will only end up over-stretching and break. When we put so much effort and hard work in one sitting, as tempting and productive as that can seem, it is counteracting how our brains work and finally our productivity levels deteriorate over time because we do not take the necessary breaks.

Taking Breaks Is Good For Your Productivity

Vacations are something we often look forward to but how much do we take advantage of these much needed breaks? A recent study found that employees who took vacations displayed higher levels of productivity, morale and improved job satisfaction.

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A real-life story that validates the finding: Mark Douglas, the CEO of advertising and marketing company Steelhouse, wanted to boost both his employees work life satisfaction and his company’s overall success by paying his workers $2000 a year to take a vacation.

Surprisingly, through this policy, he has not only cultivated a sense of trust and increased overall happiness within his company, but he also found that people who come to work recharged are more productive!

Focused Mode And Diffused Mode

The reason taking time out for vacations and taking breaks is so great for our productivity has much to do with how our brains work. We have two types of thinking modes: focused mode and diffused mode.

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Focused mode is when we spend long amounts of time on a task. It may involve marathon sessions of work, studying, memorising and problem-solving. Our brains focus entirely on what we need to do but can often lead to cramming too much in and believing getting something done all at once is ultimately productive but can lead to counter-productivity due to us not working at our best capacity.

Diffused mode is when we’re doing something else entirely and vaguely, sometimes subconsciously, thinking about what you are trying to solve. This happens when we take breaks and go on vacation – in other words, it’s creating a space where our subconscious mind is open to inspired action and problem-solving.

So by switching back and forth between these two modes, we’ll be more productive when switching back to a focused mode after spending time in the diffused mode during our breaks.

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How To Be More Productive Through Taking Breaks

To learn how to be more productive, we actually need to adopt both modes of thinking. Switching between focused and diffused modes is where the magic happens. While it’s important for our mind to be focused by spending time retaining details, learn and concentrate at a task, we also need the space for our mind to be more free and open to let the subconscious mind take over and allowing the information to be processed more effectively.

That means you should break down your work schedule into smaller, regular sessions and make sure you take breaks in between to take advantage of the diffused mode. This could mean just switching off and taking a walk, exercising, listening to music or the ultimate break – taking a vacation.

We mustn’t underestimate the benefits we reap from taking time out and relaxing. If we make it all about focused mode we don’t take advantage of our brain’s true potential and ability to be at its most productive. So don’t shy away or judge yourself for stepping away from your work – you are doing your productivity and, ultimately, your career a massive favour.

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Featured photo credit: snapwiresnaps.tumblr.com via pexels.com

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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