Our brains are pretty special things. They hold a lifetime of memories, process thousands of subconscious commands every minute and help us navigate the optimal path through our days. From the moment we are born, to the moment we leave this world, they offer us a capacity for learning that sets us apart from every other species on this planet.
They will attempt to absorb everything that our busy lives throw at them, but, for them to remain in top-notch decision-making form, we need to give them regular periods of “chill-out” time to refresh their energies. That is rather unscientific language, but you can be assured that there is a huge amount of science behind the thought that regular “rest periods” allow the brain to catch up and get ready for renewed action.
If you use your brain’s refresh button on a regular basis, you will feel so much more in charge of your day and more able to meet the challenges that come your way.
Research has shown that our brains have two “modes” of operation, a “focused” mode when we are learning something new, thinking about a problem or working, and then a “daydream” mode where random thoughts flit in and out of our head with no real urgency. You might think that the first mode is the only one to impact our productivity, but you would be wrong.
Studies have shown that brain activity actually increases when our brains wander – we make connections that may not have previously been contemplated, and breakthroughs seemingly come out of nowhere. You know that great idea you had in the shower this morning? Yes, you’ve guessed it – “daydream mode.”
The “refresh” button doesn’t have to be pressed for long. You can go and make a cup of tea, have a stroll outside for 15 minutes or maybe even listen to some music with your eyes closed for a while. It needs to be enough for your brain to forget about your previous task (as it is not very good for concentrating on something for much longer than 45 minutes anyway), and after the break it will be ready to get back on track and at the same time ensuring that you are heading in the right direction.
I personally find that the 80/20 rule works particularly well for me. 80% of my working day is spent in hardcore work mode, the rest (split up through the day) is spent at an entirely more leisurely pace.
Giving yourself permission to do this is the first hurdle – you shouldn’t feel that your day should be a madcap race to the finish. You’ll be exhausted before mid-afternoon if you don’t add refresh breaks into your routine.
It may seem strange to say that to get any work done, you should choose not to work for part of the time, but it is firmly my experience that this is a the case.
Give your brain a break – it will repay you for it.
Written by Lee Narraway and Edited by Paul Drury
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