How to use intentional, indulgent breaks to improve your productivity.
Australia is a gift that just does not stop giving.
You'd think with all their adorable marsupials, otherworldly creatures that can kill you without a second thought, and the fact that the entire nation successfully convinces everyone that dropbears are a thing, they'd run out of delicious treats to give the rest of the world.
But oooooooohh Australia you veritable cornucopia of delights, you’ve done it again.
Why do I say that? The Great Emu War is why.
Yes, this is a real snippet from a 1930s Australian newspaper.
You see, shortly after World War 1, Australian veterans found themselves with plenty of land, but not a whole lot they could do with it.
It's not only that the land they were given was out of the way and generally unusable, but also that this land was infested with the greatest scourge of them all: the emu.
These giant ground-birds would apparently eat everyone's crops and be a general nuisance.
Not only that, it apparently took more than 10 bullets to take one down. Getting rid of them was basically impossible.
After fighting this menace for some time, the Australian newspapers at the time even started calling this series of bird vs. human battles "The Great Emu War."
And guess who won?
AUSTRALIA, YOU JEWEL OF A COUNTRY! VICTORY FOR THE EMU!
These poor former soldiers had way too many emu to deal with... and maybe you could say these poor emu had too many humans to put up with.
And as usual, too much of anything can be seen as a negative, whether it be too much food, too much work, or in this case, too many invincible devil-birds.
But sometimes, when it comes to the process of working from home, taking "too much" time away from our work can actually be the most productive thing we can do.
For some of us, taking too much time to ourselves
Sounds incredibly decadent, risky, and maybe even irresponsible, especially with everything that we have to do everyday.
But that's just it: I'm not saying we should a 7-year vacation at the drop of a hat, but instead, I'm recommending implementing what I call "overbreaks."
An overbreak is a super intentional chunk of time
Where we truly enjoy ourselves during a longer-than-usual moment in our day.
Instead of our "break" involving checking our phone, or mindlessly going on YouTube for an undetermined amount of time, we're going to take these breaks with more intent.
As we're taking our break, we can and should decide exactly what we're going to do during that time.
No browsing Netflix mindlessly for a show, no scrolling through Instagram, and no poking at YouTube without a plan.
Instead, we say something along the lines of "I'm going to watch this interview," "I'm going to post this specific thing," or "I'm going to play this game."
This gets rid of the mindless (and draining) guesswork that often comes with our time off.
When we do this, our breaks actually start to become genuinely psychologically satisfying
As opposed to dreary moments that just melt away - as is what happens when we do something without any intention.
And when our breaks are satisfying, we don't mind going back to work nearly as much.
But we're going to take this just a step further and make sure that we crave going back to work.
Have you ever been mindlessly scrolling your phone
Only to realize that 20, 30… maybe 40 minutes have passed without you really doing anything?
Or maybe you were playing that very good Animal Crossing, chatting with your good pal Tom Nook and then realized that you really should be getting back to work?
When that feeling strikes, we normally start to guilt ourselves
We start saying things like "Oh, I really should get back to work," yet we're still completely glued to our Switch, unable to move.
The guilt keeps ramping up, and we know we should be getting back to work, but alas, we're not.
And if we ever do get back to work, we hate every second of starting things up again. It's a torturous cycle that happens over and over again.
So on top of setting an intention of what our break will be
We can also force ourselves to take a break for "too long."
For example, if you've played Animal Crossing for 30 minutes and the initial guilt starts creeping in, consciously allow yourself to play even more.
The guilt will keep rising… Even so, keep playing. Force yourself to keep playing for just a little longer, even if you're getting a little bored of it.
Eventually you won't be able to deal with it and you'll turn the game off of your own volition.
Instead of feeling that you "should" get back to work, you'll actually want to get back to being productive.
That's the ideal overbreak.
What you do on your breaks is totally up to you
For example, I've recently gotten into "rucking" which means just putting on a super heavy backpack, and walking around outside while the weight of your pack slowly destroys you mentally and physically.
… You may have other preferences on how you spend your time, though I can't imagine what could possibly be more relaxing than the above.
In all seriousness, you can do whatever you want during these breaks
Totally feel free to use YouTube, hang out with your spouse, post on social media, watch Netflix, or play games during your breaks, so long as you know exactly what you're going to do instead of just mindlessly browsing.
You can do these overbreaks anytime you take a break from your normal work
And you can do them as often as you want. Whether just taking one decadent Animal Crossing break in the middle of the day, or doing several smaller moments of doing something else with intent.
Considering many of us are working from home at the moment
This is the ideal time and place to try this. You could do this in an office, but Tom Nook might not be there, so you'd have to get creative with how you take your breaks.
"But Akash, you pear-farming bon vivant," I hear you say "won't I just binge way too much if I do this?"
That may be the case, and if so, then you don't need to keep trying this method.
But a lot of our binging, especially during work hours, comes from a dread of going back to our work.
When we're dreading going back to work, we're not really enjoying our break, and when that happens, we procrastinate even more.
And when we allow ourselves to be decadent and really enjoy every moment of our breaks with intention, then we go back to work feeling fresh and sassy.
Let's summarize what we learned today:
- Taking breaks with intention makes them start to feel truly satisfying
- Forcing ourselves to actually spend "too long" during our break can make us truly desire to get back to work, instead of dreading it
- We can do whatever we want during these overbreaks, so long as we intentionally determine what that time off will be used for
- The emu are impervious to harm and I bow to their will
So while most of us aren't dealing with countless invincible emu
Many of us are dealing with the new challenge - and the distractions - that come from working from home. Taking these indulgent "overbreaks" can be a big help in staying on task.
And suddenly, more of us have been working from home than ever before
And as someone who has done so for about 10 years straight now, I've figured out some solid ways to be productive, focused, and vibrant while working in a non-office setting.
In my newsletter, I talk about not only how you can become maximally productive (and healthy) while working as a freelancer/from home, but also how to make the most of your sound design career.
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