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When You Start To Read More, These 10 Things Will Happen

When You Start To Read More, These 10 Things Will Happen

I have a confession. I’m an addict.

It’s almost a lifelong thing, really. Since I was a kid. I should be embarrassed… but I’m not.

I should get help… but I won’t.

I’ll just go back to the bookstore. Back to the library. Back to my endless queue of ebooks. Back to my stuffed shelves.

They know me. They love me. I’ve got everything I need here. Why would I stop?

And why wouldn’t you start? When you read more, life expands. Here’s how.

1. You will find a safe way to escape when your own life is depressing, overwhelming, or just boring.

No need to turn to drugs or alcohol. Save your money. Get a library card, or start downloading some of those thousands of ebooks in the public domain. Get wrapped up in a story. Get lost in another world. Get into a character’s head and out of your own.

It’s instant. It’s economical. It’s portable: your own personal escape route when things get to be too much.

And who’s going to look down on you for reading a book? You smart thing, you. I won’t tell them what’s really going on. Promise.

2. You find out that you have a family.

Okay, I know. You have parents and maybe siblings, and maybe a whole slew of aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents and whatnot.

Or maybe not.

Maybe you do feel alone in the world, bereft.

Whether you’re a literal orphan or you simply feel like you totally don’t fit into the family you’ve got, becoming an avid reader is a way to find the family you can fit into.

It’s a worldwide, totally open, and really awesome family.

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It’s the family of readers. Book lovers. Literary addicts. Bibliophiles. Become one of us, and you have an extended family that you can find anywhere. There’s a signal, of course, like a secret family handshake. Just pull out that latest book and read it. That’s all it takes.

We’ll see you.

We’ll know.

We’re always nearby, whenever you need us.

3. You will become part of a timeless, global conversation.

Books are the way that the past communicates with us. And books are the way that we communicate across cultures and national boundaries, across social lines and class divisions.

Books let us enter into each other’s lives and worlds in a completely unobtrusive but immersive way.

Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.

Have you ever wanted to be someone else, to go somewhere else, to experience some other life than the one you got?

Books, baby. What are you waiting for?

4. You will learn to talk pretty.

Reading is the most painless way to improve your vocabulary, spelling, and grammatical proficiency.

Did you catch how I just spelled “proficiency” without even looking it up?

Yeah. That comes from reading.

Read more, and you’ll be able to snicker smugly when your friends post status updates with egregious spelling errors. You can correct their misuse of common words. You can be the Grammatical Tyrant you’ve always dreamed of being.

5. You will look forward to lines, layovers, and waiting rooms.

This could be the biggest turning point of your life, actually. Instead of tapping your foot impatiently, huffing and sighing like dyspeptic cow, or otherwise displaying your wrath and frustration in a socially acceptable way, you can simply… read.

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Whatever book you’re currently lost in should be with you, in your pocket or purse. Pull it out and you’ve got entertainment, companionship, and intellectual stimulation. All in one handy portable package.

My friend Leigh says that reading gives her “the ability to be happy anytime, anywhere, even when waiting ridiculously long amounts of time.”

That’s a superpower everybody needs.

6. You will be a nicer person.

You might not care about being a nicer person, but the other people in your life probably do care.

Reading, as my friend Christine put it, “allows me to experience another’s emotions, which in turn makes me more sensitive to those around me.”

And she’s right.

Maybe you’ve never been a victim of racism, abuse, or poverty. Maybe you don’t know what unrequited love feels like. Maybe you find it easier to criticize than to sympathize.

Reading won’t take that away entirely (my Criticize-O-Meter is still in good working order, even after decades as an avid reader) but it will help you to slow down a little bit on the judging.

And speed up a lot on the empathizing.

Because when you live other lives through books, you begin to see the other lives happening in the world around you. The lives you know nothing about.

And you begin to have a little more understanding. A little more interest. A little less “us versus them” and a lot more “we’re all in this together.”

7. You will learn stuff.

Even if all you read is fiction, you can learn quite a lot about cultural influence, relationships, history, fear, human psychology, the various expressions of spirituality, the effects of war, the way robots will definitely take over the world, and how superheroes manage to keep their capes clean.

All very useful information.

Want more? Branch out into non-fiction. Biographies, history, current events. No, just kidding; skip the books on current events. Read history instead; you’ll learn more about current events that way.

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Philosophy. Psychology. How-to books. Memoirs. Science. Exploration. If you’re interested in it, you can find a book about it. Probably you can find an entire section of books about it.

And hey, if you can’t find a book about it, maybe you should write one.

8. You will discover that you were dumber than you knew.

In the time prior to your avid reading addiction (also known as “The Years Which Must Not Be Named”), you thought you had a pretty open mind, didn’t you?

Go ahead, you can admit it. I won’t laugh.

You thought that you knew kind of a lot, and that you had a broad perspective on life, and a pretty accurate view on the world and how things worked.

And then you started reading.

Maybe the first few books weren’t such a big deal. They probably kept you safely in your comfort zone. But then one of the members of your new reading family gave you a recommendation.

“You’ve got to read this,” she said. “It’s so great. Really.”

So you did.

And you realized that something you thought you knew—really knew, truly and certainly—was not right at all. You felt the edges along your mind begin to crack open a little bit.

You felt a little light seeping in and you started seeing the interior of your mind the way it really was: dim, dusty, and crowded with a lot of assumptions.

You kept reading, and the more you read, the more those cracks opened up. One by one, those assumptions slipped and slid out of the cracks. The light grew. The air cleared.

You started populating your mind with different things: images, conversations, perceptions, insights, data. Poetry. Fragments of lives you didn’t live, but somehow experienced through a book. Emotions that didn’t belong to you, but that you felt just as strongly.

Real things, from the real world, instead of that crumbly old stack of assumptions and expectations.

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9. You will be more creative.

As you fill your mind with fresh material from all these books, something wonderful starts happening.

Your mind wakes up.

Creativity is really all about making connections. The creative people in life, the ones we admire for their ingenuity, are the ones who can make those connections really well. They have a broad database of knowledge, and they don’t bother keeping the categories separate. They let poetry seep into science. They let faith and history hang out together.

They understand, in fact, that all those categorizations are imposed. We put labels on things so that we can feel like we understand them, but sometimes the labels are counterproductive.
Reading helps you tear the labels off.

Reading helps you to fill your mind from as many sources as you want, and then let all of that beautiful stuff mingle and mix in anyway it wants.

10. You will become more imaginative and less afraid of being weird.

When you read books that are the product of someone else’s imagination, you start to trust your own imagination, and use it.

What a great idea! Using that brain, in all of its crazy, unnerving, glorious potentiality.

Reading will help you do that. If you feel like your mind is strange, start reading. After a few runs through the world of surrealism or science fiction (or surrealistic science fiction), you will feel like the most normal person in the world. Who are these crazy people who come up with these weird, fantastical ideas?

Of course, you’ll want to read more. So you will. And then your own imagination will start to blend what you’ve read with the real life you’re living, and you’ll add in your own unique collection of information, experience, education, and personality. Who knows what will result?

Don’t you want to find out?

Why don’t you have a book open yet?

Featured photo credit: David Blackwell via flickr.com

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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

Reference

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