The Importance of Taking Breaks

Here is an interesting article on the importance of taking breaks:

Some excerpts (although reading the entire article is definitely highly recommended):

Ever wonder why our best ideas come when we’re in the shower, driving, daydreaming, or sleeping?

When you look deeper into these ingeniously elegant solutions and brilliant flashes of insight you can see that they came at strange times and in random locations. They didn’t occur while actually working on the problem but after an intense, prolonged struggle with it followed by a break. A change of scene and time away seems to have played a part.

Most “creatives”—artists, musicians, writers, etc.—instinctively know that idea incubation involves seemingly unproductive times, but that those downtimes and timeouts are important ingredients of immensely productive and creative periods. But until fairly recently the how, when, and why of being kissed by the muse was something of a myth and mystery, explained only by serendipity.

New studies show that creative revelations tend to come when the mind is engaged in an activity unrelated to the issue at hand; pressure is not conducive to recombining knowledge in new and different ways, the defining mark of creativity.

While no one yet knows the exact process, there’s an important implication for all of us: putting pressure on ourselves to try and make our brains work harder, more intensely, or more quickly, may only slow down our ability to arrive at new insights. In other words, if you’re looking to engineer a breakthrough, it may only come through a break. Your brain needs the calm before its storm.

As one example, one of the best decisions we made at Tenrox was to shut the company down between Christmas and New Year’s. We do not schedule any internal or external project work, customer calls, visits or implementations during this time. Our professional services and support team is also asked to provide nothing more than essential services by a handful of people who are on call. We have done this for the last two years and it has been an incredible success. Our team returns to work well rested, creative, and fully reenergized. We very much encourage our team to take breaks and all their vacation time on a regular basis. Working hard without sufficient breaks and “off the grid” time leads to an unproductive uninspired team.

Would be great to hear your perspective and suggestions for taking breaks and how you apply this to your project teams.

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  1. #1 by Ahmed El-Deeb at May 25th, 2010

    Hi Rudolf,
    Thanks for this interesting article!
    Well to share with you my own experience, in the middle of my working day I just get in to a meeting room or such and I sit very relaxed and close my eyes for 10 minutues. While closing my eyes, I make myself feel the negative energy flowing out of my closed eyes, I relax my facial muscles. I do this for 10 minutes; then, I return back to my desk very energetic and refreshed. This 10-minute program can be repeated multiple times in the working day whenever one feels really exhausted.
    I apply another “flush” program to wash away all the working week exhaustion. In the last working day in the week (Friday), at night before going to bed, I usually, take a warm bath with a refreshing shower gel or something. In the bath, I do “Mind Emptying”; I picture all the issues, problems, work flying from the top of my head; just like the screen you see when deleting something of the recycle bin in your PC. Then, I go down to my eyes and relax, my face and relax…and so on until the whole body is relaxed. After going off the bath, scented candles light are on in my room (no other lights) along with soft music. Relax on the bed; then, take the sleep. Also, an option is taking a hot beverage in that state; it is very important not to think of work or problems starting the bath time.

    I find these two simple programs very useful and simple. I hope they can benefit everyone and would love to share opinions.

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