Some nights I wake and I simply don’t feel the need to sleep any longer. Not because I cannot sleep, but simply because I don’t want to sleep. I feel too inspired to write or create something. And then I go back to sleep later or I meditate. That’s what is happening this morning at 4:04 AM 🙂 My need for less sleep might have something to do with what I do during the day to recharge and restore my brain.
IF YOU BREAK AS OFTEN AS YOU WORK, YOU MIGHT ACTUALLY GET MORE DONE
Contrary to popular belief, more does not equal better. More work does not mean you will get more done. In fact the download I got the other day is that if you break as often as you work, you’ll actually get more done. Especially as it relates to work that has a heavy cognitive load – requiring a lot of thinking, information or decision making.
WHAT’S IMPORTANT IS HOW YOU BREAK
What’s important is how you break. Because in reality sometimes you might say you’re taking a break when actually just doing mentally demanding tasks that require other parts of your brain. Or require less brain power than what you were just doing. Like shifting exercise from one muscle group to another. Instead of working on your project you shift to reading the news, checking messages or scrolling feeds. All of these changing contexts and information streams are still adding to our cognitive load even if the reduction in load feels lighter. And even going into full consumption mode through watching a movie or a documentary still exerts a cognitive load. And although socializing with friends can be a great way to connect & recharge your emotions, often there’s still a tax on the mind to maintain all the words & ideas that keep communication going. I have another hack for how to optimize this too, but I’ll save that for another post.
WHAT KIND OF BREAK RECHARGES THE MIND?
So when you break as often as you work, what kind of break am I actually talking about? I’m talking about a strategy that absolutely reduces the cognitive load so your brain gets a true ‘break’ from processing information from the outside world as much as possible. Yes you might have guessed ‘meditation’ but it’s even easier than that. You don’t have to even think about what it means to meditate, you just have to alter your environment to reduce sensory inputs with these two little hacks I discovered recently. These little hacks can make a huge difference in how quickly you experience a nice mental reset. The best news is they are super low cost, and yet very effective.
HACK #1: Get an Eye Mask Cover
The eye mask cover is a deceptively simple way to to cue your mind to turn off. It also takes up space in the physical environment as a reminder: “Hey I’m here, come take a break.” When the mind is really racing from over stimulation, you need a simple way to SHIFT into the intention to go within, and often just closing the eyes is not enough as the over-stimulation can cause you to reopen them and get drawn into something else. The eye mask is one layer of protection to ensure you stay focused WITHIN.
Another added benefit is that it signals to others: hey I’m not available for interruption. Whereas sometimes just sitting with your eyes closed means: “I have nothing to do, come interrupt my thoughts.” I’m only half joking. *smile*
Even if you don’t know how to meditate, if you just leave the eye mask cover on and deep breathe (anyone can do this), your brainwave patterns become altered and you start going into an Alpha state. This means you don’t have to ‘meditate’ per se, just put the eye mask cover on, breathe deep and observe what comes up. That’s it. No overthinking or doing anything wrong.
You might even fall asleep and go into a Theta or Delta brainwave state, which offer even deeper levels of rest and restoration (it’s part of the reason of why we sleep)
HACK #2: Get Some Good Ear Plugs
The next level of the eye mask cover hack is to get some good ear plugs. Combining the eye mask with some good ear plugs you is a MUST. Where the eye mask cuts off the visual stream from needing to be processed, you can still hear sounds from the environment that keep your brain more active. If there are other conversations going on they can easily penetrate your consciousness and become the majority of your focus – even if you don’t want them to. I’ve been meditating for over 25 years and it still happens to me.
I’ve tried lots of ear plug types and the one that still works best for me is the basic foam ear plugs. That you twist and push in and then they fill up your whole ear canal. The moment they decompress and block out the sound almost completely, you’ll feel transformed! Combine that with the eye mask and it’s like you’ve suddenly entered into your own little world, in just a matter of seconds!
I had no idea it could be so easy to transform my meditative practice, my rest and what my work breaks look like! These two hacks alone, done regularly throughout the day , will help you in ways you can’t imagine right now
#1 IT REDUCES DISTRACTION – INCREASING WILL POWER
Distraction is often a tempting ‘relief’ from the heavier mental work loads: When your brain is overloaded it will make excuses to get distracted such as: why make that report when I can just ‘take a peek’ at whats going on over here.. (boom suddenly you’re down an expensive rabbit hole). But when your mind is in a good state, its easier to focus where you want.
#2 IT REDUCES PROCRASTINATION
When you have reduced distraction – it’s easier to think more clearly about what you actually want to focus on. Most procrastination is just the result of lack of clarity. If you can get clear and focused on what you want to do and less tempted to be distracted, you’ll actually get more of what you consider important done during the day. Not just in your work life but in all aspects of life.
#3 IT REDUCES THE AMOUNT OF SLEEP YOU REQUIRE
At first glance you might feel like taking so many deep breaks is counter-productive and you’ll end up getting less done. But in reality when you get the right kind of break, a deeper but more frequent rest, your mind will actually integrate whatever you just did. If you do a long break, for example like an hour – you might even go into a REM state, have a dream and integrate on an even deeper level.
This means your actual ‘bed time’ is happening regularly through the day and you’re getting the equivalent of multiple ‘mini-mornings’.. which just so happens to be the time when your mind is most rested, and so therefore is one of the most productive times of day.
When you reduce the amount the sleep you require, you actually more more time for things that can be even more revitalizing. Such as more frequent walks or runs, exercise, movement & even hobbies you’ve been putting off. By engaging in movement and passions – you’ll have even more energy in the day that you can channel into your work.
Believe it or not, by increasing the # of DEEP BREAKS you get in a day, you not only increase your enjoyment for life but you also increase your clarity, efficiency and ultimately productivity of your work.
Now with that said, I realize some jobs might require working through a straight shift and don’t have as many opportunities for these kind of breaks. But most work, even hard manual labor, could benefit from a deep break. And if you can find time to scroll your phone, you have the time to put a blind fold and ear plugs on and go deep!
Lastly – be willing to do it anywhere. I challenge you to be willing to look funny as you do this. I bring my eye mask and ear plugs with me in a little bag specifically for storing these items, so that I am cued to do these deep breaks anywhere I am. Being out in public or a busy place doesn’t mean I cannot do it – and in fact sometimes we need it the most! Ironically, when others see me giving myself permission to rest, they also give themselves permissions to rest. It’s like this idea that we all MUST act a certain way that perpetuates a lot of the over-expenditures of energy that are unnecessary, especially in a social context.
I also find that when I start taking a break in this manner it has a ‘calming’ effect on everyone in my field. It’s as if I’m also doing energy work and holding a space for everyone to relax into. Which then gives them permission to also relax.
If you’re in a hectic work environment and have a boss that believes the busier and more stressed out you are, the more you’ll get done – you might want to share this post and explain how you’d like to conduct an experiment to take more breaks over the course of a couple weeks and be evaluated on your output.
One last thing – what you eat and drink along the way will also greatly effect your ability to take these deep breaks and feel restored. Digestion is the other major consumer of energy and scientists now say the gut brain is actually even bigger (has more neurons believe it or not) than the brain in our head! So by eating nutrient dense meals that are alkalizing (green salads / green smoothies) .. and hydrating regularly, we optimize our body and guts so we have BOTH of our brains benefitting from our deep breaks.
Our minds are one of the most incredible tools we have. And when we can learn to rest / relax and recharge them properly- we can actually do more, be more, experience more , while enjoying more in the process.
Use a simple eye mask and ear plugs as often as you work and see the benefits for yourself.
Use the extra free time to exercise and engage in a few passions.
Eat less and eat healthier.
James Sunheart is a student of personal development and spiritual growth. He is passionate about optimizing people, systems and life. He’s written 7 books. Interviewed hundreds of experts. Given a TED Talk in France. Lives in Costa Rica while developing a sustainable eco-village. For opportunities email: James AT FullPotential.com