Leadership in Action – Want to be More Productive? Take a Break

shallow focus photography of white ceramic mug beside two baked cookies on brown wooden board

As many of us are leading knowledge workers, who we expect to be creative and strategic, we want to redefine how we Energize Action. To clear their minds and increase their creativity and problem-solving ability, we want to encourage healthy breaks. And it’s not only encouraging them to add white space to their calendars, but to honor that space.

During this time of the year, with the holiday break, we are experiencing first-hand how important it is to step back from the work. Stepping back, taking a break, gives you a different perspective. Stepping back gives your mind the chance to organize and prioritize all of the problems you are trying to solve.

Take this renewed energy, that you are using to jump into 2021, and recognize how you can create these breaks on a regular basis to keep your team energized and creative. Even a watch or step tracker is telling us to stand or move our bodies every hour for our health and well-being. Encourage your team members to stand up and take a 5-minute walk or stretch every hour or so to keep their mental energy and creativity at their best. This walking away, from the work of the moment, clears away the noise and brings clarity back to the purpose as they immerse back into the work.

Encourage your team (and yourself) to avoid connecting in as soon as eyes are opened in the morning. The phone can be used as an alarm, but avoid reading emails, text and social media for the first 90 minutes of the day. This allows the brain to take time to plan the overarching strategic aspects of the day and not get mired in the urgency of the moment. This time is for family and/or fitness. Starting the day this way allows the mind to be sharper. It’s a better perspective for the whole day versus reading that nasty post or email in the first three minutes of being awake. That less-than-helpful post will still be there 90 minutes later. However, it does not need to set the tone for the entire day.

Depending on the workflow of your team – the individual members and their responsibilities – encourage blocking out a half to a full day a week. Ask them to keep that time for their most strategic work. No meetings, no other obligations, just a large block of time for them to work on more creative-type projects. These large blocks of time help your team members balance the strategic projects with the urgent projects that can detract from the important.

Hopefully, you and your team are able to enjoy a break this week or next. As a leader, be purposeful in planning regular breaks for your team. This will Energize Action, creativity and strategic thinking, as well as increase productivity.