Learn about the importance of establishing recurring breaks to relax, in order to experience some joy from working at home.
- Having some fun is a good thing, right? It helps you feel happier and be more balanced, but what if I told you that having fun wasn't just a nice thing, but it was a necessary thing, that it was absolutely essential to your work at home? That is the truth I discovered when I was working on my book, The Power of Having Fun. When you take a break to do something relaxing and enjoyable, it releases just a little bit of natural dopamine into your body. That dopamine motivates you, pushes you forward, and makes it easier to learn new things.
By taking fun, meaningful breaks, your performance improves over time. Yet, all too often, when people work from home, they deprive themselves continuously. They tell themselves that fun is something that they get when they earn it, that after a project is complete, I'll be able to relax. When that vacation arrives that comes up once per year, then I'll be able to take a break. Doing this degrades performance over time.
It makes you less likely to find success. Instead, you want to make it a top priority to take meaningful breaks on a consistent basis, especially when you work from home. I call a break like this an oasis. You want to create an oasis in your day. If you think about what an oasis is, it's a place of refuge and refreshment for the desert traveler. Many people push themselves throughout their workday, depriving themselves of refreshment, but when you take regular, meaningful oasis, you recharge yourself and help yourself perform better.
The first kind of oasis you should create I call the work oasis. This oasis should last about 10 to 20 minutes and should occur about once very 90 to 120 minutes of activity. This cycle of taking a break is derived from something called the ultradian rhythm. Similar to the circadian rhythm where people need a different amount of sleep depending on who they are, your needs will vary. To begin, let's assume that you need to take a break every 90 minutes.
You can adjust this over time. Looking at your typical workday, this means you'll want to schedule one oasis in the morning after 90 minutes of activity. Later you'll have another natural break for lunch and yes, you should be eating lunch every single day in order to be productive. Then you'll have one more oasis in the middle of the afternoon. This may not line up exactly with the 90 minutes, but it's a good starting point. What do you do during this work oasis? Anything that's meaningful to you.
Studies have shown you can get just as much benefit from something active, like the manager I worked with who liked to shadowbox, as you can with something passive, like watching some funny videos on YouTube. No matter what activity you choose, give yourself permission to take the break. Schedule it and when the time comes, you stick with that schedule. We want to neither skip it, which will degrade your performance, nor overdo it, which perpetuates slacking off in your day.
Stick to the schedule. There's another kind of oasis that you want to schedule outside of work hours, the personal oasis. This is where you take a little bit more time, let's say a half an hour, if you can take that much, to do something fun and enjoyable. What kind of activity? Again, anything that's meaningful to you. Perhaps there's a hobby that you used to like to do but forgot to do. Perhaps there's a show that you like to watch on a regular basis.
Whatever it is, schedule it and make it a priority to get it done. This little oasis will boost your ability to perform the rest of the day. It gives you something to look forward to. When I trained people to do this, most people report that they find themselves motivated to both work harder and smarter simply because they have this fun, personal oasis to look forward to. Scheduling and sticking to these oasis will not only boost productivity, but will help you maintain balance.
You'll become adept at transitioning from when it's time to work to when it's time to refresh and recharge your batteries.
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