I’m not sure why it took 66 years and 3 months of retirement to figure out that something I’ve read about for years but never applied to myself is not only true but suddenly blatantly obvious. I’ve discovered that not only is it smart to take breaks now and again from tasks but in order to be productive, I need to schedule those breaks into my day in solid, non-negotiable blocks of time. If I don’t, I procrastinate about projects that are going to require chunks of time and lots of concentration. I either end up refusing to work on them, wasting time with useless errands or distractions that lead to frustration at my own laziness, or forcing myself to sit in the chair and work on them until I’m so exhausted that I’m making mistakes (that I then use as my justification for procrastinating the next time around).
I’m not sure why I never noticed exactly how vital breaks are to my ability to complete my tasks. Maybe while I was still working, I moved from project to project to keep things fresh without being consciously aware that I was working “brain breaks” into my day or maybe I took breaks to chat with co-workers and that was enough to let a part of the working brain recoup. Who knows?
In any case, it finally occurred to me that I don’t have to plop my butt down in the chair and stay glued to it until I’m finished. I don’t even have to complete things the same day. What a concept. I found that if I allow myself an hour and a half (two if I want to push it) to work on a gnarly task, then not only change what I’m working on but also the environment I’m in, I’m capable of returning refreshed and approach the task with a whole new attitude. I complete things twice as fast and with less errors. I’m slowly developing a method that works really well for me: spend an hour and a half working on a major project, leave the house and go to the gym, head to Starbucks and work on a different project – editing an article for the aromatherapy journal, reading a magazine, creating webinars for my online series, return home and tackle that initial project for a bit more, take another break to watch some television and do some knitting, or do prep work for a new recipe, then circle around one last time to that first task. I’ve amazed myself at not only how well that works but also how much fresher I feel at the end of the day.
As I said, I don’t know why it took me so long to learn this but I’m pleased as punch (Southern expression) that I have.