As a sales representative by morning, an executive coach, and a blogger by evening, I usually work for eighty-two hours a week. However, last June I decided to conduct an experiment. What if I did nothing for a week? I did just that! I struggled to adjust at first, but the benefits of my deliberate disconnection became obvious as I entered the third day. Here are the five lessons I gained from the experiment.
I learned to cherish connections. My one-week break taught me that meaning isn’t only created through achievements, but also from cherishing our relations with loved ones. The exaggerated focus on accomplishment may cause us to value only transactional relationships. It’s the mindset that only those who pay for our time deserve our attention. If time is money, it’s also a gift we give someone expecting nothing in return.
Extended breaks are a catalyst for creative thinking. I’ve always known that excessive concentration leads to a “mental block,” which hampers innovative reasoning. I experienced this firsthand when, one day after my break, ideas were pouring in as if I was possessed. Remember those moments when you formulated a solution for an arduous problem by just deserting it? Imagine how much more creative juices you can get flowing from longer breaks.
Extended breaks increase productivity. Not only were my creative juices overflowing, but I also experienced an immense productivity boost. I produce more articles than I did in the three months preceding my seven-day break. Disengaging long enough allowed me to resume refreshed, paving the way for my productiveness. From that experience, I understood that activity doesn’t always equate to productivity.
Breaks can make us happier. It’s well-known that breaks can help reset our moods by the release of dopamine, which reduces stress and promotes well-being. At the end of my seven-day break, I felt less stressed and merrier than I have ever been.
I learned the danger precrastinating. Precrastination, as opposed to procrastination, is rushing too quickly into tasks. David Rosenbaum, a professor of psychology at the University of California, stresses that precrastination is the source of preventable mistakes. After my experiment, the importance of taking “strategic breaks” between projects became clear to me. Strategic breaks are long enough to allow us to recharge and are sufficiently short to prevent us from getting overwhelmed when starting a new project.
I’ve learned a lot regarding the values of unplugging, but it was my experimentation that made the difference. You don’t have to sell a prized possession, you just need to give yourself a break and experience the benefits for yourself.