Some days just never seem to get started, like one of those dreams where you’re trying to run but the harder you try the slower you go. On days like that it’s tempting to just put your head on the desk and relinquish your day to the abyss of no productivity. But wait! What you need is a way to shake things up and get them moving. I like to think of this as ‘recalibration’: re-aligning yourself so that things start working like they should again.
With that in mind, here are some ideas about how to go about that, in some better than average ways. Bring on the perfect break.
1. Literally get out
Scientific research (conducted by me, on myself, under extremely unscientific conditions) has shown that the longer you sit at a desk unable to do anything, the less likely it becomes that you will eventually do something. Somebody once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. I’m not discouraging perseverance, but there comes a point when something has to be changed in order for you to get anywhere.
So, in the inimitable words of JoJo: “Get out (leave!) right now.” Personally I don’t think there’s anything better for refocusing the mind than taking the mind out of the office, out of the building, preferably even out of the immediate area to somewhere with trees and maybe a little river. That’s not always possible, but a stroll to the end of the road just to let your eyes look at the outside world for a while will work wonders.
2. Call your mum
Or anyone really. If you’re getting into a slump then it might be because you’re getting fed up with your own company, so take a short break and catch up with someone who has nothing to do with work. I don’t mean slack off and spend the rest of the afternoon gabbing in the kitchen, but a brief chat just to ask how your best friend/your brother is will be a nice surprise for them and uplifting for you.
3. Consume some culture
If you work in the city, then there are likely all kinds of interesting things around your workplace that you’ve never paid any attention to. Look up what there is within walking distance of your office and use your lunch break to go on a micro-sightseeing trip.
Art galleries and museums are particularly good for this as they’re usually free, so you don’t need to dedicate a whole afternoon to walking around, rather you can dip in and out looking at one section at a time over multiple days. They also often have temporary exhibitions that change, and quiet corners to sit in, and nice cafés, meaning they’re the gift that keeps on giving for really rewarding breaks.
If you don’t have art and culture on your doorstep, then you could try making some! Doing something creative is a great way to give yourself an outlet for any built up frustration or stress. Even if you’re not artistic, doing some dedicated doodling can be good for resetting yourself.
It might not be appropriate to burn a load of incense in the meeting room and say “Om” to yourself for an hour, but lots of entrepreneurs advocate mini meditation breaks in the middle of the day. This can be as simple as shutting your office door, closing your eyes, and concentrating on your breathing for a few minutes. Alternatively, you could put on some music and really listen to it for a while, rather than passively letting it play in the background as you work.
6. Tea, always tea
My British is showing now, but I firmly believe that tea can be a powerful force for good if you let it. Everything about tea makes it perfect for recalibration of the self: the brewing process is a calming ritual in itself (there’s a reason it’s the focal point of a ceremony in China!) and the amount of time it takes to drink is somehow exactly the right length for a break. Just one of those beautiful synchronicities of life, I suppose. How do I love tea, let me count the ways…
(Also, for some more communal tea-induced joy, you could try investing in an office tea pot and have impromptu afternoon tea sessions. Bonus points for a handmade cosy. Guaranteed to put a smile on faces and perk everyone up.)
7. Treat yourself to something good
It’s human nature to reach for the things that comfort us when we feel off or like things aren’t going to plan. That’s why you get drawn to the chocolate aisle when you go to buy a sandwich and end up making yourself feel bad (and bit sick) by eating rubbish. So on days that really need a kick up the backside, resist the urge to sulk into junk food which will give short-lived satisfaction and instead go to the extra effort of seeking out something special and good. Get decadent with fresh fruit you wouldn’t normally buy, like pineapple or melon, or go to that nice café you’ve been eyeing up and sit down at a table with a proper lunch. It’ll be better for you, and therefore give you a far better energy boost, and it’ll be a pick-me-up for your mind and soul as well as your body.
Published on 11 April 2016