A lot of literature currently is about getting the most out of the COVID crisis when WFH (working from home). But when is continuous productivity considered doing too much?
The year 2020 has an overflow of negative news all around the world. Consuming these bits of information has led people to endless bouts of anxiety and uncertainty, rising stress levels and feeling defeated. Add to the fact that they still need to work (perhaps even harder due to layoffs and salary cuts) to earn a decent living — your guess is good as mine.
We need scheduled mental breaks to avoid burnout and free up more space. Prioritizing mental health, especially when dealing with ensuing panic and a future uncertain, ensures you stay healthy and rejuvenated.
How do you give yourself mental breaks without feeling guilty about it? How do you handle the perils of productivity at all costs culture? How do you effectively maximize your downtime? We shall highlight what it takes in this post.
1. Take mini-breaks throughout the day
To have a sustainable schedule, you need to plan intentional breaks throughout the day.
The Pomodoro Technique of time management is ideal for such 5 minutes breaks in between a 25 minute work interval. It lets your brain know and anticipate for mini-breaks to indulge in any non-work related habit you want.
Those shorter screen breaks that allow you to get up and move around are more beneficial than more extended breaks. A regular mini-break ensures productivity levels stay up, increases motivation, reduces physical and mental fatigue, keeps the stress levels low, and improves relationships.
2. Know when to stop working from home
Even as you work from home, you deserve a shut-off time. Most people feel guilty when they are not working nonstop, especially from home.
Develop a consistent schedule that strikes a balance between your work life and home life and stick to it. Factors like having kids around may allow for an adjustment, but it’s advisable to wake up and sleep at your usual time.
Have a clear distinction between when work starts and when personal time begins. Step away from your workspace to reinforce that separation. Create boundaries that emphasize on having alone time or family time when you are off from work.
3. Commit to doing fewer projects
Less is more. Instead of trying to put out so many things at once, it is crucial to focus on putting out fewer, better things. Cut back on the commitments laid out on your to-do project lists and complete the most important first.
Remember, you are only human. If it means taking longer breaks, especially if you are a creative, then do so. Commit to deep work at the level of detail anyone would appreciate. Then switch gears with a mental rest before embarking on the next project. Your ideas will remain excitingly fresh, and the brain will thank you for it.
4. Break during physical dips
Plan your breaks during the natural cycle when your body is tired and needs a boost. This pattern is typical for most during the afternoons.
Follow your body cues by listening to (parts of) your body. If your legs feel stiff, or your back is hurting from all the sitting, or your tummy is rumbling for food, or your throat is thirsty, or your eyes hurt from staring at the screen, or you yawn every other minute — it is time for a break.
Naturally, your brain stops registering sound, sight and feelings if they remain consistent for an extended period. A few minutes away from work to respond to each of the body cues is not a loss in productivity. The distraction recharges your mental focus and boosts your physical capacity.
5. Have enough sleep and exercise your eyes
We put so much strain on our eyes when locked to our digital devices every single day. A vision break is necessary to reduce eye fatigue and protect your vision.
You can either exercise (take your eyes off the screen every 20 minutes to focus on another object for 20 seconds) or dim lights in your room or use anti-glare screen covers.
Sleep nourishes your mental, physical and emotional health. The recommended 8-hour rest is enough to keep you fresh for the next day. However, 20-minute power naps during the day can help rejuvenate your mind. Cut down on caffeine when it’s close to bedtime.
Technology is as valuable as it is addictive. It has a way of drowning you if you don’t control its usage. Switch off work gadgets and fully concentrate on relaxing after work hours. Occasional digital detoxes for lengthy periods to refocus your thoughts come highly recommended.
Take a day off from consuming any news on social media to avoid overwhelming panic. Treat yourself to a small luxury or a guilty pleasure that brings you joy and happiness. You can also watch Tv, listen to interesting podcasts, spend time with your family, or catch up with your friends over coffee.
Being physically active can alleviate mental fatigue and renew energy. Go outside and immerse yourself in nature’s fresh air. Do some physical exercises at home or in the gym. A 30-minute walk or jog can help prioritize your wellness. Have a mental check-in with yourself to assess how the day was and what should be done the following day.
Sitting still and letting your mind wander by zoning out has similar benefits to meditation. A mind drift allows for the creation of novel ideas and creative solutions to problems. Do not consume any information, just be. Your thoughts will do the rest.
Meditation helps turn off the mental noise allowing you to create more space to reflect better. Sit down, close your eyes and breathe. The deep breathing technique will calm your nerves, increase alertness and clear your thoughts.
Once you clear your head, you can then refresh your mind and refocus your priorities. Take time off your day to meditate even if it’s for 10 minutes. I use apps such as Headspace and Calm for guidance.
8. Declutter your mind
Apart from meditation, there are other ways to clear all the clutter that’s taking up mental space in your brain.
- Avoiding multitasking – Focus on one important task at a time and push all the mental clutter to the side.
- Being decisive – Putting off making decisions will clog your brain.
- Limiting amount of information your brain consumes – set a time limit on social media usage, cancel magazine subscriptions that do not add to the quality of your life, pick what is only relevant to you.
- Keeping a journal – download your internal thoughts on a journal to free up mental space for fresh perspectives.
Taking mental breaks work best when you need them the most. Listen to your body and respond to it. The breaks listed above will keep you fresh, alert, motivated and re-energized when you get back to work mode.
Let us know how you take your mental breaks in the comment section!