The reason you need to take breaks from your work is that if you don’t pick your head out of the trees you’ll never see the forest. Great ideas do not come to those continually mired in details. Your brain needs a moment to relax. Most of us know this intuitively. The problem is that most of the ways we relax at during work are destructive: candy break, smoking break, online shopping.
I thought of this because today Chad’s Reviews, which is totally over-the-top workplace commentary, pokes fun of the idea of taking a break to do something destructive: “If You Get A Smoke Break, Then I Can Punch The Wall For 15 Minutes.” (If you like Chad, you must read his blog raison d’etre: “Why I’m Frickin’ Doing This“)
I find that I usually degenerate from doing something hard to surfing to eating to biting my nails. It’s a frustrating path and I always wish that I took a true break at the surfing and saved my nails.
I have actually taught myself how to meditate, and it works every time. But sitting on the floor next to my computer, which takes no energy and less than two seconds to do, somehow has become as difficult for me to do as going to the gym.
Being with yourself is hard. Turning off the input is hard. Believe me, it is so much easier for me to read Chad’s Reviews than it is to clear my head and think of nothing. But when I meditate, even for a minute, which is acceptable but on the too-short side, I see huge improvement in my ability to do good work. And I am not crazy. Researchers have found that meditation improves work performance.
I have to be honest, though. Training myself to meditate took a lot of practice, and I learned it in order to perfect my jump serve in volleyball, not to be better in an office. (Visualization is a proven technique among Olympic athletes.) But you know what? I really don’t think I’d have reached the professional ranks of volleyball without having added meditation to my training. (The book I used: Peak Performance: Mental Training Techniques of the World’s Greatest Athletes.)
Just typing the name of the book reminds me of what a big impact it made on my life in terms of my ability to focus and think big. I really believe meditation will improve my office work, too, if I’d just sit on the floor and do it. I thought maybe if I blogged about how important it is, then I’d be more likely to do it next time I find myself going to the fridge when the only thing I’m hungry for is a break.