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What kind of break best recharges energy levels?

July 13, 2012

One big challenge we all face during the workday is maximizing our energy so that we can work productively for an extended period of time. One of the tips I have written about is to take short breaks throughout the day to refresh your mind and recharge. I have quoted Tony Schwartz and his book Be Excellent at Anything that recommends taking a few minutes away from the computer to stretch your legs, get a glass of water or some other activity that provides a break from work-related stimuli.

Now a research finding has emerged out of Charlotte Fritz’s work at Portland State University that tells a different story. Harvard Business Review Magazine in the May 2012 article “Coffee Breaks Don’t Boost Productivity After All” interviewed Fritz about her findings. In essence what Fritz discovered through a series of studies she conducted is that “breaks that involved work-related tasks appeared to boost energy.”

Fritz states in the interview: “The only time people showed an increase in vitality was after they took short breaks to do work-related things, such as praise a colleague or write-a-to-do-list.”

She also found that microbreaks that were true breaks from work didn’t appear to provide any positive impact on a person’s mental clarity or energy levels.

If Fritz has it right then this provides yet another great reason for mentoring. Taking a scheduled microbreak to help someone with a question or a problem might provide also provide a helpful energy boost.

The question is who has it right? I suggest this is best answered by what works for you in your own practice. Over a few days try out taking short breaks in which you discuss work with a colleague, or write your to do list, or engage in some other work-related activity. Note after each break what kind of impact you experience on your energy levels. Later, try out short breaks in which you take a brief time out from all things work related. What impact do these breaks have on your energy levels?

If you have a moment please email me to let me know what you discover.

Posted in: Balance, Strategy | Permalink | No Comments →

Weekly Meeting with Yourself

September 19, 2011

Remember that old Maxell tape ad?  The commercial with a guy sitting in the armchair with his hair blowing back from the intensity of the sound waves? Well that’s pretty much what I look like these days as I move through my weekly schedule. Abundance is great and abundance can be a challenge. For those of you who are in a similar state, here’s a simple practice that will help keep your priorities on track. I call it the weekly meeting with yourself.

Schedule a meeting with yourself.

Go somewhere where you can be undisturbed.  If you stay in your office turn of your email and blackberry.  Work on your project-list, to-do list, and calendar, and spend time reviewing what you finished in the past week.  Treat this meeting with the respect you would give to a client meeting.  Put it in your calendar and don’t book over it.  This ritual is very effective for being mindful of how you are spending your time.

Here’s a Harvard Business Review blog post with great additional information:
How to Stay Focused on What’s Important by Gina Trapani

Best wishes for a productive September!

Posted in: Balance, Goals & Planning, Strategy | Permalink | No Comments →

Work in pulses – a performance enhancement strategy for busy lawyers

June 1, 2010

To get the most value out of your work week it is crucial to work in chunks of uninterrupted time rather than long grinds filled with constant stops and starts for email and phone calls.   Yes, the good news is that by managing your energy levels and taking breaks, even very short ones, you can be far more productive and keep your stress levels down.

Tony Schwartz author of the book The Way We Work Isn’t Working, co-written with Jean Gomes and Catherine McCarthy, has concluded that to be top of our game, we need to integrate both intense periods of work and short periods of rest into the work-day.  Schwartz is featured today in a Globe & Mail interview “An R&R room at the office? It could be just what the company needs” by Wency Leung:

Q: Your book suggests it’s possible to get more done by spending less time at work. Can you explain?

A: I don’t think it’s so much about spending less time at work; I think it’s about shifting the focus from time to energy. The more continuously and longer you work, the less incremental return you get on each additional hour.

We are physiologically meant to pulse, and we operate best when we move between spending energy and renewing energy. We value spending energy and we are good at it, but we undervalue renewing energy, even though that’s a powerful way to improve performance.

I urge you to read the article and give this approach a try.  What is the impact on your effectiveness when you schedule in several periods for uninterrupted work during the day, with short breaks and periods for phone calls and email?

Posted in: Leadership, Strategy, Work|Life Balance | Permalink | No Comments →

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