Eliminate Stress By Mixing It Up at Work
How many times have you come to the end of the day and just feel utterly wrung out and exhausted?
Our world of 24 hour connectivity and multi-tasking can be draining even if the tasks and connecting aren’t really that physically or mentally rigorous. All too often, we get sucked into the “go, go, go!” mentality; maybe even thinking that if we keep plowing through, we’ll be more productive.
But what if that is completely wrong?
According to a study published in 2011 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods.
“You start performing poorly on a task because you’ve stopped paying attention to it,” claims Professor Alejandro Lleras, who led the study. “Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness”.
Anyone who has spent time with a child who repetitively says, “mom, mom, mom”, can vouch for this. You get used to hearing that little voice and eventually start blocking it out. Or how about those columns of numbers or rows of server data? Have they begun swimming around and mixing together right before your eyes?
Taking frequent breaks might seem counterproductive, but with the constant barrage of email, texts and phone calls in our hyper-connected workplaces, it may be the smartest thing you can do. That is, if you take the right kinds of breaks.
How to Clear Your Head and Return Your Focus at Work:
- Make sure you step away from your desk. (And don’t just replace the big screen on your desk with the tiny one on your phone.) Take a quick walk – around the office, over to the break area, down to the lobby or better yet, get outside!
- Be social. Have a chat with a co-worker face to face. This is especially important if you don’t have much interaction with people at your workplace.
- Try to take a break every 90 minutes or so, especially with big tasks. Obviously if you’re on a roll and you feel productive, you should keep working, but when that fatigue starts to hit, it’s time to get up and regain focus by taking a break.
- Make the break mindful. Deep breathing, meditation or even yoga-like stretching can improve your productivity.
- To nap or not to nap? We’re not saying to sleep on the job (Hello, George Costanza), but maybe closing your eyes for a bit is just what you need. Find a comfy chair in the break room for a 10-15 minutes decompress.
- Don’t forget about the ultimate break – vacation! Small breaks can help you get through the day, but a week or two away from all of it can help recharge you for the rest of the year.
The trick to surviving the constant flow of information is to find the balance in your everyday life. Work hard and give your best effort, but balance it with breaks to recharge yourself. You might just be surprised at how much can achieve when you don’t spend all your time trying to achieve.