Productivity and GTD
Resting Properly, Key to Your Productivity
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” ~ Alan Cohen
In order to be productive throughout the day it’s not enough to have a personal organization system functioning perfectly. You need to have the capacity to paying attention so you can properly focus on every task and, on top of that, the energy to face them. If you’re not capable of managing these parameters it could take you two hours to do something that normally would take you one hour. Your efficiency may be dramatically reduced.
To make the correct decisions at each moment and carry them out efficiently you cannot neglect an extremely important factor: Resting properly.
Unfortunately, in this society we are all under too much pressure (sometimes, from ourselves) to get things done as soon as possible. This implies that we often end up neglecting the option of taking a break, even when we are not able of thinking clearly anymore and we can’t progress with what we’re doing. Let me tell you that when you’re tired, stressed, and overwhelmed, continuing is not very smart.
Resting is an obligation if you want to be more productive, more professional, and happier in your life. And it’s not only about sleeping well at night.
It has been proven that taking short breaks very often throughout the day is very beneficial to our performance 1. After each break we renew our body’s energy, reactivate our brain and face any new task with more motivation.
The Pomodoro Technique helps you implement a routine full of breaks throughout the day. It’s based on work cycles of 25 minutes with breaks of 5 minutes, and longer breaks (15 to 30 minutes) every four iterations.
Surely you take a break every so often, you go on the Internet and you read blogs like this one. Or you just start doing things with your smartphone. There are studies that demonstrate that this type of activities activate practically the same mental processes that you use when working. 2. In other words, this way of resting does not mean “resting”. For a break to be effective you have to completely disconnect.
Going for a coffee, having an informal chat with your colleagues or simply relaxing by thinking about other things for a while, are ways of resting more or less effective. However, nothing beats going out of the building for a walk, specially if you have nearby some park or natural area. It seems that nature helps you recharge your mind.
Even though some companies haven’t still realized, the employee’s value doesn’t depend on the number of hours that he works, but of what he contributes during those hours. Relaxing every so often and doing things that you like and have nothing to do with your job, helps you doing your work better.
Someone who has done some kind of physical training knows that, to make it effective, it’s necessary to take small breaks in between series, a good break in between two training sessions and a macro-break of at least a week every two or three months. During the breaks is when the progress happens.
Resting is as well one of the good practices of the agile methodologies of software development. It is said that you have to be fresh and willing to work every morning, and tired and satisfied every night. Spending two days per week doing different things not related to work allows you to come back full of energy and new ideas. The excess of working hours is considered a symptom of the existence of a serious problem in the project.
In short, working continuously during many hours is not natural. Nor the body or the mind function in that way. You must establish shorter cycles that adapt to your nature. Ideally, it’s you who has to decide the length of each cycle and each break, since each person functions differently. There are people who feel perfectly after sleeping six hours and there are people who need eight. There are people that recharge batteries with a 15-minute break every 2 hours and there are people that need 30 minutes every hour and half to disconnect. You must understand your life pace and adjust your activity to it and not the other way around.