Having effective, efficient and preferably high speed employees is a characteristic that is on top of the wish list for leaders of any company. On the other side we deal with the highest amount of burn out, depression and work related stress that the world has ever faced. We are online 100% of the time. Even at the weekends and during holidays our phone reliably delivers all private and work messages if we haven’t prepared an absence note or blocked them. The last thing before we go to bed is checking our mails on the phone before we lay it right next to our head on the bed. In the morning we check our Mails, Twitter, Instagram or Facebook again and the game starts all over. Babies at the age of one stand in front of aquariums and try to move fishes with their fingers and a little later they play bubble games on their parents’ phones. People even pay for special black hole hotels in which there is no Wifi available just to slow down for a few days.
I don’t want to start a fundamental debate, but generate a little awareness for the things I want to say. Because in the end we all want to be efficient -just as our boss wants us to be. But rather after a long working day, we want to have the energy to listen to our children’s laugh and stories without migraine. We want to be able to do the things we love and live for. We don’t want to be sucked out like batteries by our jobs before retiring as empty shells.
This year Sweden introduced the six-hour working day with astonishing effects: shorter workdays led to greater gains for companies. But these results aren’t new. In fact we go a way behind time. At the beginning of the 20th century the first work psychologists started examining how working processes could be optimized. Already in 1926 the German psychologist Kurt Lewin found out that short breaks after 50 minutes could distinctly increase workers efficiency . Graf and Scholz (1956) compared two groups of shift workers and found a significantly higher daily output in the group that took a short break every hour additionally to one long lunch break compared the group that only had one lunch break. Recent research confirms these first studies. After about 50 minutes our energy, concentration and vigilance start to drop from optimal levels to a certain level of fatigue. A high motivation is able to bias this subjective feeling of exhaustion, but if we keep pushing this boundary we finally reach an irreversible point from where it is not possible to mobilize our powers again. To have a break then will not charge our batteries, because it is already too late.
So here is the simple thing you can do:
Try to build in your ten minutes free time every hour.
- If you can: lay straight on the floor and close your eyes for a short meditation
- Do some movement you prefer: Yoga, stretching, gymnastics
- Listen to 3 songs of music and dance, clean up or just brew yourself a tea
- If you can’t do all that, just get into a toilet room, lock the door for 10 minutes and close your eyes while sitting
- Avoid any activities that require your eye muscles to contract. Leave your computer and mobile phone off
- Have this time-out every hour!
It is something you can adapt to every situation in your life. I started my 10 minute breaks in my exam learning sessions during studies. This way I became highly efficient. Every new hour was started with a refreshed brain, ready to be filled with some more knowledge. And it took me much less time to learn than before. I could learn stuff until lunch that normally would have cost me a whole day learning, just because of all the regress time that goes on for being slower, tired and less concentrated.
This also applies to parenthood. As a mother I don’t like to stress through the day just because I want to have a perfect household, perfects meals and a happy child. What does that do for me if I can’t perceive clearly anymore, because I’m rushed, exhausted and on edge. In the end I can get all these things done and even appreciate them calm and joyful. For these 10 minute breaks I often prepare us a smoothie or I just sit next to J while he plays and close my eyes. And of course there are always nursing breaks at his age.
Try it out!
You will see just how much more you get done over the day. How much nicer it is to ease up from time to time and how much clearer and more colorful the world appears. How much energy is left for your real life after work. Because after all: We work for a living, don’t we? What is it good to work and have no living?!