Many of us are taught that if you are not working, you are not worthwhile. Every minute of your day should be geared towards contributing to your own success while acting as a productive member of society. However, studies have shown that after a certain amount of time trying to focus on a work activity, you are about as productive as a hamster on a wheel.
A Case For Shutting Down and Tuning Out
A recent study from Stanford which compiled results from olders studies on the relation between the number of hours worked and the productive output of workers concluded that after a certain time threshold (approximately 55 to 60 hours per week), the productivity of a worker begins to decrease. Ultimately, decreasing work hours by no more than 10 percent contributes to a worker’s physical and mental health, while the productivity remains unchanged
Other studies have shown that the human brain automatically tunes out after a certain period of mental concentration or physical activity. This is not an excuse; it is a physiological reality.
A study conducted by Florida State University professors concluded that human performance is best when working in 90-minute intervals. The subjects of the study included successful athletes, musicians, actors, and chess players. The individual must avoid exhaustion and give himself time to recover completely for the best long-term performance, the professors found.
How does that impact your work week as an employee or entrepreneur?
Well, the problem is that even when you leave work, you may not have left it behind.
If your children think you were born with a phone attached to your ear or a computer at your fingertips, you have not left work behind at the office. If you are unable to concentrate on a word anyone is saying to you because your mind is swirling with things that were left undone today and projects that start tomorrow, you are still at work.Maximizing your potential for success while minimizing your risk for a heart attack requires putting your work life on hold and allowing your body and mind to reset.
Allow Yourself a Weekend
The modern work week only gives you two days to play with, called a weekend. So take it! Yes, there are chores like mowing the lawn, gardening, or replacing broken appliances that must be squeezed into a weekend. Sometimes these chores are even enjoyable.But if you spend your entire weekend miserably scrubbing the floors or fighting traffic to get groceries and other necessities, you might as well never leave work at all.
It is a given that some jobs will siphon away weekend time. If there are calls that must be made or emails that must be answered, schedule this into your weekend activities while having the discipline to know when to stop. Your family, your friends, your body, mind, and sanity need you, too.
Delve Into Your Personal Art
Perhaps you have a secret or not-so-secret passion. Indulge in it. Maybe it is so secret, even you don’t know what it is. Discover it. Maybe you enjoy woodworking, or drawing, or playing piano. Maybe your thing is to simply listen to music without thinking about anything else. A kickball game with the guys, dancing with the girls, or planning an activity with your family –whatever helps your mind to slow down and focus on something besides work will allow your unconscious to relax, stimulating untapped resources that will give new fuel to your efficiency when the work week resumes.
Everyone is familiar by now with the benefits of exercise for a healthy body. Exercising also calms and tones the mind through the release of endorphins. Studies have been performed on test-takers where those subjects who exercised were compared to those who did not. The studies found that those who exercised prior to a test performed better overall, as exercises simultaneously calms the mind and stimulates the brain. Choosing to push the body forces the mind to quiet down, whether you are practicing yoga, lifting weights, or engaging in your favorite sport. After all, it would take real effort to be anxiously obsessing over trivial problems if your heart is pounding, your muscles are stretched to full capacity, or you are balanced on one leg upside-down in half moon pose.
Transitioning, Reflecting, and Preparing
Relaxation time is essential in preparing the mind to do its best work. Meditation breaks, rest breaks, vacations, and weekends are great times to let your mind wander a little. It is in these moments that the individual ponders what they would like to accomplish next or how they could do things better. Just as it takes time to download after a long day at work, it also takes time to prepare yourself for the next phase in the upcoming work week. These in-between times can be thought of as a transition phase, like that between being awake and falling asleep, where the imagination takes over and allows inspiration to flow.