Advertising
Advertising

When A Cuppa Will Do You Good: Brief Breaks & Productivity

When A Cuppa Will Do You Good: Brief Breaks & Productivity

    There are points when the only thing you can do — despite desperately wanting to be productive — is to step back for a few minutes. And while conventional productivity wisdom seems to dictate that you should use those few minutes to get a small task done or get a bit ahead on a future project, there are often situations when the best thing you can do is to sit down for a nice cup of tea (or the relaxing activity of your choice). I picked up the habit a while back and taking those little breaks have actually increased my productivity. Try stopping for a few minutes when…

    Advertising

    …You’re Frustrated

    If a given project is about to drive you over the edge, you need to step back. Try to get some distance or some insight. But switching over to a new task when you’re already wound up and frustrated just means that your irritation is going to be transferred to your new task. Sure, you may get that little bit of work done and out of the way, but you’re going to continue to be frustrated through that task and on to the next one. Taking even a few minutes can help you decide just why you’re frustrated and what you can do about it — you may even get a side order of inspiration with your cup of tea and think up a new approach to your problem.

    …You’re Feeling Poorly

    Trying to push on through your daily tasks when you’re feeling sick can be worth less than you think. If you over exert yourself when you are already tired or sick, you may just wind up needing to redo tasks, rather than getting ahead on what you need to do. If you’re like me, though, the idea of taking a day off or going back to bed just doesn’t seem like an option. But slowing down can make sure that I actually do get things done on a day when I feel pretty bad. Sure, I may not get some smaller tasks done while I’m sipping on my tea, but I can probably work through my most important tasks.

    Advertising

    …You’ve Been At It Too Long

    We all have different breaking points, but each of us have that point where, if we don’t go and do something different, we’ll go a bit nutty. I learned during the good old days in college that if I wanted to pull an all-nighter, I had to plan to get up and take a walk every hour or so, or I’d get so flat out bored and tired of my project that I would fall asleep on my keyboard. Getting up to make a cup of tea, get a drink or take a quick walk around the office not only gives your brain a chance to refresh itself; it also gives you a chance to stretch and maybe avoid that case of carpal tunnel you’ve been working towards.

    …You Have A Short Wait

    In any given project, odds are pretty good that you’ll have a short wait here and there: waiting for a graphic to render or an email to arrive or whatever. As a general rule, if I expect that wait to be under five minutes, I refuse to start anything new. Sure, I might need a short break away from the project, but I don’t necessarily want to derail my train of thought to the point that working on something entirely different would entail. Getting up to get a cuppa will keep me from getting overly distracted during those five minutes, but won’t cause me to lose the focus I need to keep working on a project.

    Advertising

    …You Reach A Set Interval

    After you’ve been working for long enough, you just have to get up and move around a bit. I actually set a timer to go off every twenty minutes to remind me to just stretch. While I don’t think that getting up every twenty minutes just for a cup of tea — or getting up at all that often — is ideal, getting up out of your chair on a regular basis is a good idea. You might set a timer for once every few hours or so. Of course, this sort of break is easy to ignore when you hit your stride. I often work through my timer when I’m on a roll. But after working through that timer a time or two, I find that I absolutely have to get up and move. It’s up to you to find an interval that works, as well as a reason to get up — after all, there are only so many cups of tea a person can drink in a given day. But there are plenty of options: exercise, snacks, even set activities like walking down to pick up your mail can be enough to provide you with a short break.

    …You’re Thirsty

    Even if you’re almost done with a project, it can be worth it to take care of those nagging bodily needs. You may think you can ignore it just a little bit longer, but any distraction can be enough to decrease the quality of work. It’s rare that you’re so close to done and so close to deadline that you can’t afford a few minutes to get a drink or whatever else needs doing. While I’m all for suffering for one’s art, I don’t think being thirsty quite qualifies.

    Advertising

    More by this author

    50 Businesses You Can Start In Your Spare Time 8 Replacements for Google Notebook 5 Sites Where You Can Sell Your Photos 7 Tools to Find Someone Online 19 Entrepreneurship Websites Worth Checking Out

    Trending in Featured

    1 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 2 How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life 3 What to Do in Free Time? 20 Productive Ways to Use the Time 4 Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide) 5 How To Start a Conversation with Anyone

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on September 10, 2019

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    How to Master the Art of Prioritization

    Do you know that prioritization is an art? It is an art that will lead you to success in whatever area that matters to you.

    By prioritization, I’m not talking so much about assigning tasks, but deciding which will take chronological priority in your day—figuring out which tasks you’ll do first, and which you’ll leave to last.

    Effective Prioritization

    There are two approaches to “prioritizing” the tasks in your to-do list that I see fairly often:

    Approach #1 Tackling the Biggest Tasks First and Getting Them out of the Way

    The idea is that by tackling them first, you deal with the pressure and anxiety that builds up and prevents you from getting anything done—whether we’re talking about big or small tasks. Leo Babauta is a proponent of this Big Rocks method.[1]

    Advertising

    Approach #2 Tackling the Tasks You Can Get Done Quickly and Easily, with Minimal Effort

    Proponents of this method believe that by tackling the small fries first, you’ll have less noise distracting you from the periphery of your consciousness.

    If you believe in getting your email read and responded to, making phone calls and getting Google Reader zeroed before you dive into the high-yield work, you’re a proponent of this method. I suppose you could say Getting Things Done (GTD) encourages this sort of method, since the methodology advises followers to tackle tasks that can be completed within two minutes, right there and then.

    Figure out Your Approach for Prioritization

    My own approach is perhaps a mixture of the two.

    I’ll write out my daily task list and draw little priority stars next to the three items I need to get done that day. They don’t need to be big tasks, but nine times out of ten, they are.

    Advertising

    Smaller tasks are rarely important enough to warrant a star in the first place; I can always get away without even checking my inbox until the next day if I’m swamped, and the people who need to get in touch with me super quickly know how.

    But I’m not recommending my system of prioritization to you. I’m also not saying that mine is better than Leo’s Big Rocks method, and I’m not saying it’s better than the “if it can be done quickly, do it first” method either.

    The thing with prioritization is that knowing when to do what relies very much on you and the way you work. Some people need to get some small work done to find a sense of accomplishment and clarity that allows them to focus on and tackle bigger items. Others need to deal with the big tasks or they’ll get caught up in the busywork of the day and never move on, especially when that Google Reader count just refuses to get zeroed (personally, I recommend the Mark All As Read button—I use it most days!).

    I’m in between, because my own patterns can be all over the place. Some days I will be ready to rip into massive projects at 7AM. Other times I’ll feel the need to zero every inbox I have and clean up the papers on my desk before I can focus on anything serious. I also know that my peak, efficient working time doesn’t come at 11AM or 3PM or some specific time like it does for many people, but I have several peaks divided by a few troughs. I can feel what’s coming on when and try to keep my schedule liquid enough that I can adapt.

    Advertising

    That’s why I use a starred task list system rather than a scheduled task list. It allows me to trust myself (something that I suppose takes a certain amount of discipline) and achieve peak efficiency by blowing with the winds. If I fight the peaks and troughs, I’ll get less done; but if I do certain kinds of work in each period of the day as they come, I’ll get more done than most others in a similar line of work.

    You may not be able to trust yourself to that extent without falling into the busywork trap. You may not be able to tackle big tasks first thing in the morning without feeling like you’re pushing against an invisible brick wall that won’t budge. You might not be able to deal with small tasks before the big tasks without feeling pangs of guilt and urgency.

    My point is:

    The prioritization systems themselves don’t matter. They’re all pretty good for a group of people, not least of all to the people who espouse them because they use them and find them effective.

    Advertising

    What matters is that you don’t fall for one set of dogma (and I’m not saying Leo Babauta or David Allen preach these things as dogma, but sometimes their proponents do) until you’ve tried the systems extensively, and found which method of chronological prioritization works for you.

    And if the system you already use works great, then there’s no need to bother trying others—in the world of personal productivity, it’s too easy to mess with something that works and find yourself unable to get back into your former groove.

    “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

    In truth, this principle applies to all sorts of personal productivity issues, though it’s important to know which issues it applies to.

    If you thought multitasking worked well for you each day and I’d have to contend that you are wrong—multitasking is a universal myth in my books! But if you find yourself prioritizing tasks that never get done, you might need to reconsider which of the above approaches you’re using and change to a system that is more personally effective.

    More About Prioritization & Time Management

    Featured photo credit: Sabri Tuzcu via unsplash.com

    Reference

    Read Next