How to be more productive: Discipline of Breaks for Yoga Teachers, Creatives & Writers
In today’s fast-paced world, productivity has become a top priority for many. If you’re self-employed, you might want to find ways to be more productive. Many people feel that the key to productivity is to work harder and longer. I used to think this way, that time was a limited resource and the longer I worked, the more I would accomplish.
I was making a fatal mistake: As a self-employed entrepreneur, well-being coach and creative, one thing I struggled to do initially was to take breaks at work. Sometimes I would find myself going and sometimes neglect my own needs, even ignoring needs to go to the bathroom, eat etc, Does that sound familiar? Maybe you’ve struggled with this as well.
But breaks are actually super powerful, and a well-taken break has amazing benefits. Accountability co-working groups like CaveDay, which I am a member and guide for, swear by regular breaks. On the topic of breaks, I have found Dr. Patrick Barry’s presentation, the Power of Breaks, to be groundbreaking. It revolutionized how I work, and I encourage everyone to do the same.
In this blog post you’ll learn how breaks can increase your productivity, creativity and well-being, and how to take breaks effectively to achieve more in a shorter time. To save you 56 minutes from having to watch it for yourself, here are my notes from the Discipline of Breaks, and some of my own insights and reflections. If you’d like to watch it (which I still do highly recommend, scroll to the end for the video):
How breaks increase your productivity (and your health and well-being!)
- Breaks are a mental massage: Take breaks because they make you more productive AND because they’re a good in themselves (for a fuller life). Breaks are essential for maintaining focus, creativity, and energy levels throughout the day. When we work for long periods without taking breaks, our brains become fatigued, and we lose the ability to think clearly and make good decisions. We may also experience physical symptoms such as eye strain, headaches, and back pain. By taking regular breaks, we allow our brains and bodies to rest and recharge, which can help us to be more productive when we return to work.
- Breaks prevent overwhelm. One of the main benefits of taking breaks is that it can help to reduce stress and improve mental health. When you are under pressure to perform, it is easy to become overwhelmed and anxious, which can have a negative impact on your productivity and overall well-being. Taking a break from work allows you to step back from your tasks and take time to relax and unwind. This can help you to feel more centered and focused, and better able to handle the challenges that come our way.
- Breaks foster creativity and innovation. When you’re constantly focused on work, it can be difficult to come up with new ideas and approaches. Some of my best ideas have come to me during the 20 minute meditation I take in the afternoons, or even the 3 minutes I am on the rowing machine while my waiting for my tea to warm up over the stove, before getting back to work! By taking a break and engaging in a different activity, you give our brains the space and freedom to think outside the box. This can lead to breakthroughs and insights that you may not have otherwise discovered.
- Breaks improve your physical health. Sitting for long periods of time can be harmful to our posture and circulation, and can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and other health problems. I used to suffer from lower back pain due to prolonged sitting at my desks. After making an intentional effort to shift between a seated position, working while standing and taking short breaks and stretches, I am proud to say the aches have gone away! By taking breaks and engaging in physical activity, you can improve your overall health and well-being and avoid problems like lower back pain, shoulder aches and other issues.
Now that we’ve explored the benefits of breaks, let’s dive into how to take breaks to be more productive:
How to take breaks to be more productive:
- Set aside specific times during the day for rest and relaxation. This can be done in many ways, such as taking a walk, doing some stretching exercises, or simply sitting quietly and focusing on our breath. The key is to find activities that help us to feel refreshed and rejuvenated, and to make them a regular part of our daily routine.
- Try Email break strategies: Save the draft email = good break place. tired, angry eyes need a break (attention to detail). Consider sending draft to dummy email address / confidant = enables you to hit send with low stakes while taking advantage of the powerful energy of hitting send for the high stakes project
- Try Attention Restoration – E.g. Taking walks in nature, looking at pictures of nature helps refocus & concentrate, This decreases stress, while increasing your creativity.
- Struggling from writer’s block / Yoga lesson planning block / Consultant’s block? (agony of facing the blank page) The solution is to “Never write to much at a time. Leave a little for the next day“. “When you’re still going good & you come to an interesting place and you know what’s going to happen next, that’s the time to stop” – Donald Hall. If you’re excited to pick up where you left off, you’re more likely to start, if you’re starting at a half-written rather than blank page.
- Spacing is the space between 1 single task vs. Interweaving (switching between 2 different projects at the same time) is a good practice. e.g. switch from pro bono work to paying work, have something to draft (write), and something to edit (refine). Benefits are you learn a lot more permanently, the ideas might spill over from 1 project to the other. As you work on multiple project concurrently, make sure you are mono-tasking i.e. doing 1 thing at a time, You can do everything, just not at the same time, otherwise your attention / focus will be poor for the tasks at hand.
And here are some other concepts Dr. Barry mentioned which are tips on creativity, clarity and productivity:
- Power of the Particular – Power of specificity helps capture reader’s attention esp. if your audience is not a specialist /not interested in all you have to say in your topic of writing. Being specific helps make things digestible, easily understood & interesting. This comes from Dr Barry’s book, Good with Words, which I highly recommend!
- Advice-Giving effect – Giving advice helps you come up with better ideas for yourself (you benefit the most, not the person you’re advising, as it’s specific to you). More about it in this study here.
- Shitty first drafts – Your first ideas are rarely your best but they lead to potentially greater ideas through the ‘adjacent possible’
- Positive No – This concept comes from master negotiator William Ury, Ury says to embrace the No, reframe the No as a Yes to something else (William Ury). Having the discipline to say no enables you to fully say Yes to 100% of the things you say yes to. Students of Dr Patrick Barry’s (speaker) class are told they have to to skip 1 lesson otherwise they fail! And they have to skip it to say Yes to something else e.g. do something else purposefully. What a brilliant way of getting others to practice this! I’ve been sharing about this to every single person I’ve met since I discovered this concept.
- Challenge + Recovery (from the Hour between dog & wolf) is what toughens us. How to implement this? Identify challenge days AND recovery days to ensure sufficient breaks both within a month and within a day (by hourly schedule). For me, I take a 3+3 principle. The 3 days leaving up to and 3 days during my period are my recovery days in a month, and my longer break / recovery periods within the day are the mid post lunch 2-3pm. Interestingly, this same concept can be applied to other situations – for example, speech. Talking too fast? Build in recovery phases in your speech PAUSE PAUSE. Same applies to writing.
⏱️Time for a break! Let’s put to practice what you’ve just read, right now 🙂 Stop reading and set a timer for 60 seconds and take a microbreak. After you’re done, continue reading⏱️
Overall, breaks are a powerful tool for increasing productivity, improving mental health and well-being, and achieving greater success in all areas of life. By making regular breaks a priority, you can help yourself feel more focused, creative, and energized, and better able to meet the demands of your busy life. So the next time you feel overwhelmed or stuck in a rut, take a break and see how it can help you to be more productive and successful.
Want more productivity tips? Check out my top 12 Time management tips here.
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Learn how to do more in less time, work less and achieve more, and enjoy ease, flow and well-being and create a career and life you truly love. Because these are all the things I value, practice and embody in my life 🙂
BONUS: Are you a online lecturer, coach, teacher or presenter?
And while you’re at it – if you’re a lecturer, coach, teacher or presenter like I am, you might always be wearing your teaching hat! While i was voraciously taking notes while watching the video, I also noted these best practices from Dr. Barry, which he was demonstrating through this teaching – he is exceptional! In case you watched it the first time and missed it, here are my notes on how to lead an engaging presentation:
How to lead an engaging presentation (As demonstrated by Dr. Patrick Barry)
Best practices for Engagement:
- Send a pre-presentation survey to find out audience’s key needs & question areas
- Ask questions, invite participants to engage in the chat (‘crowdsource some ideas’)
- Involve other live speakers (different faces, voices, conversation to increase attention)
- Drop hints of what is coming up
- Reading the responses from the chat aloud (for the benefit/ease of participants who might not be able to see)
- End asking audiences for their takeaway (while switching off own video)
Best practices for Slides/Content:
- Use images/visuals rather than text
- Keep on same slide but replace images to move to connecting point
- Move to next slide when topic changes
- Use the words/quotes of others (famous writers etc.)
- Use participants’ key needs/questions to frame / guide presentation content (‘there was a nice pre-submitted question…’)
- Action-taking: Within the presentation incorporating a mini exercise for participants to experience a concept e.g. turning off video on zoom for 2 min so participants can take a break by looking at image of nature shown on screen & writing down where they will go next week for attention restoration
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