I’ve often heard the sentiment: “How do you do it all? You have three kids, a blog, and you work part-time from home.” My initial response is: “If I give off the impression that I’ve totally got it all figured out, I must be really good at lying!” Next, I say, “my secret to success is television!”
No, wait! Come back! I’ll explain better…
Everyone wants to be more productive (including me!). I’ve read all sorts of things that can help productivity, and some of them work for me:
- Get up early – I do wake up before the kids do and get stuff done in peace.
- Meditation – On the mornings that I read and meditate, my day is definitely improved.
- Exercise – Taking a brisk walks motivates me and gives me energy to actually accomplish things!
- Naps – Oh, I’m a big fan of the nap! Sometimes when I really need a nap (and I’m falling asleep trying to be productive), I can set my phone for 12 minutes and wake up totally ready to go (for some reason, 10 is not enough!).
I always return to the fact that everyone is different. Some things that work really well for other people do not work well for me. I once read a whole article on the benefits of taking a cold shower. For me? Not worth it. I love my long, hot shower. I get lots of thinking time done. It feels productive (and warm!).
I’ve also realized that I am terrible at being productive for long periods of time. Mr. T is really good at getting one-task focused and working on it until it is done. I go crazy. My job requires a very engaged mind. I read high-level studies and I have to make connections to ones I’ve already read, possible connections to other projects we’re doing, etc. My mind needs to be “on” for work.
I also know that I get over-stimulated. And I can tell you that being a stay-at-home mom of 3 is VERY stimulating!
We know that we need breaks, but we think we can just push through and be more productive! We can force ourselves to just hammer it out! I find, when I try to do that, I completely peter out and end up wasting time on nonsense (hello social media!).
Introducing: The Unproductivity Break!
I know it’s not a new concept, but it’s time you start being real with yourself and schedule a break. I find that when I schedule a break, I spend that time doing things I actually enjoy doing (usually planning future, hypothetical trips) rather than just wasting time.
To truly take advantage of the Unproductivity Break, you need to start experimenting. For the next week, I want you to write down every single time you unravel into wasted time. Write down the day, time, and how long you have been productive before losing your mind. If you’re average, you’ll find that working for about 52 minutes requires a 17 minute break. Chances are, you vary a bit. And I vary depending on the time of day. In the morning, I can go longer than an hour without a scheduled break. In the afternoon, 52 minutes is pushing it! I schedule my breaks based on my own experimentation.
Productivity experiments often fail to move past the minute-to-minute schedules (ie: 52 minutes followed by a 17 minute break). Those are an important part of the unproductivity break, but these also apply on a larger scale:
- Weekly: I find that a scheduled evening of chosen television on Thursday night helps me with the Friday burnout.*
- Monthly: Because I get paid hourly, I have cycles of productivity that correlate directly with my twice-a-month pay periods. The last few days of the pay period, I am a machine (gotta get the money!) and I am super productive. Allowing myself an unproductive day at the beginning of the next pay period (I have a whole two weeks!) helps me be more productive the next day.
- Yearly: Alaska is very seasonal. When the reds start running, no one works (except the fishermen!). Allowing my hours to decline in the summer without guilt helps me work more during the winter to make up for it. I can take seasonal breaks in productivity to return in the fall refreshed and ready to tackle larger projects and work more hours.
- Even Larger! I like considering life in 4-year rolling periods and after every four years, it’s definitely time to re-examine how productive you’ve been. Have you been spinning wheels because you’re stuck doing so or have you really been accomplishing the things you want to be doing? If you’ve been stuck, it’s time to ramp up productivity on your life to accomplish something meaningful. If you’ve had some killer years of doing awesome things, maybe it’s time to schedule an unproductive period to regroup on what your priorities are and how you will move forward.
June has been a month of scheduled unproductivity for Mr. T and I. We took a break from our normal, cleared our heads, saw new things, and are rejuvenated (well, jetlagged… we’re flying back today!) and ready to jump into new things!
You know you need breaks from constant productivity. If you actually take the time to experiment with your own, natural productivity cycles and schedule your Unproductivity Breaks, these breaks will be more meaningful and more helpful in your overall productivity.
What productivity tricks do you do? Do you schedule breaks?
*I’m a proponent of escapism in small doses… but that’s a topic for another day! 🙂