In this fast paced life being busy is a badge of honour. But sometimes doing nothing is the best way to be productive. Slowing down gives us a chance to reset our stress response, get breakthrough ideas and avoid burning out at the end of the day.
Here are some things to consider.
The Problem with Busy
If you’re busy doing the really important stuff (not just busywork) then that’s fantastic. It’s great to work at your limit: you get more done, you work with urgency and you most likely fit in more before lunch than most people do in a day. But prolonged periods of heightened attention, madly rushing from one thing to the next have been shown to increase stress chemicals. Being under constant pressure fires up our fight or flight response.
While this boosts urgency and helps us get more done, it has a bad effect on our quality of thinking: our problem-solving and short term memory suffers, we make more errors, and we find it more difficult to control our emotions and behaviours. Sometimes you work with greater intensity, but the quality suffers as we switch on the reactive areas of our brain.
Operating with a moderate level of constant stress has also been shown to stop our ability to get ‘A-ha Moments’ or breakthrough ideas. For these to happen, we need time to reflect (often sub-consciously) on the problem at hand and this allows us to ‘connect the dots’ that might be just beneath the surface.
You see, even though your effort remains extremely high throughout the day, your quality of works goes down…. and down….. and down….
Step One: Slow Down
Here’s a way you can combat that constant pressure that is sapping your productivity and quality of work.
Build in three, 10 minute breaks throughout your day. Research shows we need these ‘recovery’ breaks about every 2 hours to maintain peak performance.
In these breaks, you need to do some really simple things:
1) Slow Down
Don’t take a break from work stress just to add a different stress. If you’re running around doing personal errands, it’s not working. Do something to slow down. Or better yet - do nothing.
2) Disconnect Physically and Electronically
Get away from your workspace, and turn off your electronic pings and notifications. These tend to still create the stress response because they scream for our attention.
If you think you can get more done just by sitting at your desk for longer, you’re wrong. It’s a false economy. Try these simple 10 minute breaks throughout the day and see how it affects your productivity once you sit down and get back to work.