Take a Break: The Case for Taking a Day Off Each Week

take a break

Take a Break

What if you stumbled on an ancient practice that would give you more productivity, more creativity, and more energy, while giving you less stress, less anxiety, and less sickness?

You’d be intrigued to learn as much as you can about it, I am sure.

I was pulled into Aaron Edelheit’s new book, The HARD Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle, from the very first pages where he outlines the benefits of taking one true day off from our hectic pace each week.

Deep down, I think all of us know that what we’re doing isn’t exactly good for us and isn’t exactly helping us be our best selves. We are overly-stressed, under-slept, chronically anxious as a society. We are never shutting down. Work follows us home and home follows us to work. Few places on the planet allow an escape from the Internet anymore.

And so, Aaron’s compelling research into the idea of taking the Sabbath, a day off each week, in a tradition that is thousands of years old was definitely intriguing.

Is it possible to actually do it?

I asked Aaron to share his personal experiences and his research. If the idea intrigues you, I encourage you to get his book to learn more. You’ll be glad you did.

 

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” -Socrates

 

Danger: Never Ending Workload

What are some of the negative effects we are seeing from our technology-enabled, always-on society?

Want an 80% increase in the risk of coronary disease? Work more than 10 hours a day. What about stress? Would you like to experience more stress than 57 percent of Americans? Then be sure to check your emails and texts on the weekends and non-work days.

And when you have your phone on all the time and you check it constantly, you effectively are “on call” to the world. A 2015 University of Hamburg study found that extended work availability, or being on call “has a negative effect: dampening mood and increasing markers of physiological stress.” Most notably, the stress carries on into the next day, even when people are no longer on call or working. The most important conclusion of this study was “that the mere prospect of work-related interruptions during free time can exacerbate stress.”[i]

And it’s not just traditional work that we are connected to. We are also connected to every Facebook friend, Twitter follower, Instagram feed, and more. According to one study, the temptation to check the Internet “was harder to resist than food or sex.”[ii] When technology has a more powerful pull than the most basic human needs, we might start to worry.

 

“To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.” -Plutarch

 

All of this is leading to some pretty serious mental health problems. Consider that disability awards for mental disorders have dramatically increased since 1980. Substance abuse, especially of opiates, is at epidemic levels.[iii] Mental health problems are becoming a significant burden for society. According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, mental illness and substance abuse cost employers an estimated $80 to $100 billion annually. The World Health Organization has named depression as the number one disease burden for the economy worldwide.[iv]

There are 200 footnotes in my book and that is after cutting many studies out. I had to work hard not to make my book a scientific journal of the problems stemming from working too much and being online 24/7.

 

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who just had one.” -Elbert Hubbard

 

Take a Hard Break

Are Your Conversations Worth Having?

conversations

Leadership Conversations

Conversations are a critical part of conducting business, of leading teams, of interacting with others.

Despite their obvious importance, how often do we think about them as a crucial skill?

Imagine if everyone on your team became exceptional at having meaningful conversations. Do you think it would translate to more wins? I’m certain of it, and that’s why I thoroughly enjoyed reading a new book by Jackie Stavros and Cheri Torres. The authors packed so much wisdom and experience into Conversations Worth Having: Using Appreciative Inquiry to Fuel Productive and Meaningful Engagement that you will find yourself referring back to it as an essential conversation reference guide.

Jackie Stavros is a professor at Lawrence Technological University; Appreciative Inquiry strategic advisor at Flourishing Leadership Institute; and an associate at Taos Institute. Cheri Torres is a Senior Consultant with NextMove and Partner at Innovation Partners International.

I recently spoke with Jackie and Cheri about their work.

 

“We live in worlds our conversations create.” -David Cooperrider

 

The Power of a Good Conversation

Talk about the power of a good conversation.

Torres: Actually, conversation is powerful, period, whether it’s a good one or a bad one. A bad conversation can turn a good day sour, influencing interactions for hours to come. A good conversation can brighten your day and propel you into high performance and a sense of elation. When you think about it, everything arises from conversation. We’re either carrying on an internal dialogue or engaged with others, each conversation influencing what’s possible in the next moment. Conversations influence our health, wellness, happiness, relationships, performance, and what’s possible.

 

“Sometimes the greatest adventure is simply a conversation.” -Amadeus Wolf

 

With their importance, why do conversations not seem to get enough attention in business?

Torres: Conversations are such an integral part of functioning in community that we take them for granted. Until recently, there was nothing drawing our attention to their importance. Research in the field of neurophysiology, however, is showing that conversations are integral to our capacity to access the executive center of our brain, the pre-fontal cortex, where higher order thinking, creativity, trust, good decision making, and the ability to connect are possible. Conversations that trigger fear or uncertainly stimulate the release of cortisol, epinephrine, and testosterone, shutting down access to the pre-frontal cortex and stimulating fight, flight, freeze, or appease. A good conversation has the power to shift the brain from threat to safety, simulating a whole different set of hormones—oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. These hormones help us reconnect, open up to what others have to say, and rekindle trust. Further research in positive psychology corresponds, showing that positivity in the workplace builds resiliency, high performance, innovation, and collaboration. Organizations that have taken this research to heart and have shifted leadership and management practices are discovering the amazing power of a great conversation – a conversation worth having.

 

Contrast a destructive versus an affirmative conversation. What are the effects of a destructive conversation? How long do they last?

Torres: In our book, in Chapter 2: What Kind of Conversations Are You Having, we classify four different kinds of conversations. All interactions either add-value or they devalue people and situations, and all conversations are either inquiry-based or statement-based.  If your questions devalue a person or situation, we refer to those kinds of conversations as “critical conversations.” If you are telling and devaluing others, we call those “destructive.”  Critical and destructive conversations typically trigger a threat response in others, and we just spoke about how that impacts us. The impact of such conversations can last a long time, long after the cortisol has left the system.  The reason why? Our memory stores our experience; this person is recognized as unsafe. This of course inhibits working well together.

On the other hand, if you are telling and adding value, we refer to those interactions as “affirmative conversations.” Acknowledging strengths, complementing a job well done, advocating for someone or something are examples of affirmative conversations. If you are asking questions that add value or generate value, we call those conversations worth having. Affirmative conversations will shift the brain from distrust to trust; conversations worth having will broaden and deepen that shift allowing people to bring their full value to relationships in the workplace, at home, and/or in communities.

 

“Your conversations help create your world. Speak of delight, not dissatisfaction. Speak of hope, not despair. Let your words bind up wounds, not cause them.” -Tao Te Ching

 

What is appreciative inquiry and how does it relate to communication?

22 Patriotic Quotes for the 4th of July

4th of july

Reflections on July 4th

Whatever you’re doing this week, wherever you live in the world, it’s worth pausing for just a few minutes to reflect on the importance of July 4th. Whether you want to start a business, gain a following, or learn about leadership, you can learn powerful lessons from the birth of the United States.

Here are some quotes to inspire your reflections:

 

“Better to fight for something than live for nothing.” –George Patton

 

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” –Teddy Roosevelt

 

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” –Elmer Davis

 

“America was founded by people who believe that God was their rock of safety.” –Ronald Reagan

 

“America is the spirit of human exploration distilled.” -Elon Musk

 

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.” –Peter Marshall

6 Steps to Investing in Your Sweet Spots

sweet spot
This is a guest post by Kevin Lawrence. Kevin is the author of Your Oxygen Mask First.

Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” — Marilyn von Savant, highest recorded IQ in the Guinness Book of Records

Nicole is the kind of executive you trust with your biggest, craziest projects. She figures things out when everyone else throws up their hands in frustration. If it’s wild and ambitious, or difficult and seemingly unsolvable, Nicole is your go-to person.

Despite her long history of strategizing and launching successful projects, Nicole kept getting the same unpleasant feedback in performance reviews. She was celebrated for her heroism at the launch phase, but criticized for her inability to be a solid day-to-day manager, once her projects were operational.

Year after year she tried to hone her managerial skills, attempting to morph into the type of executive who deftly oversees an established program. But boredom overtook, and she’d find herself distracted by the prospect of a brand new challenge.

She’d think something was wrong with her, believing she must lack ability or strategic thinking. The guilt dragged her down at work – and at home.

 

“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” -Marilyn von Savant

 

What is a Sweet Spot?

Your sweet spot is an actual thing, not just an abstract idea.

It’s doing the things you love to do the way you love to do them.

It also happens to be where you deliver by far the most value. Your sweet spot talents are so indisputable it is criminal to waste your energy elsewhere. This is where you have vitality and inspiration, oxygen coursing through your system.

Unfortunately, conventional wisdom leads you to believe you’re supposed to care about improving your weaknesses. This is nonsense. It’s a path that leads to mediocrity. And ultimately, it’s a sure-fire recipe for disaster, physically and mentally. It drains your oxygen supply, depleting your energy, creativity and enthusiasm for life.

What’s Your Digital Business Model?

Transform Your Business

Digital transformation. We read about it often. Organizational leaders struggle to determine the possible threats, the impending changes needed, the opportunities that are possible.

Peter Weill and Stephanie L. Woerner’s new book, What’s Your Digital Business Model?, provides a strategic framework for thinking about these issues. Peter is a Senior Research Scientist and Chair of the Center for Information Systems Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Stephanie is also Research Scientist at the same institution with a specialty focusing on how companies manage organizational change caused by digital disruption.

I had the opportunity to speak with them about their research and new book.

 

Rate Your Digital Readiness

How would you rate most organizations readiness for the era of digital disruption that we are in and are facing?

Most organizations we talk to and research know they have to change to stay relevant and have improved in some areas (perhaps they’ve worked on business process optimization or they’ve automated a lot of processes). However, as customer experience demands have increased, we find that many older, bigger companies have not made the improvements and changes needed to address those demands. Plus the leaders of the average large company (more than $7B in revenue) identified that 46% of their revenues are under threat over the next 5 years if they don’t change.

 

Fact: large companies predict 46 percent of revenues are threatened in the next 5 years absent change.

 

How was the research developed?

The book is based around six questions we think every executive and organization has to be able to answer in order to be competitive in the digital economy. We started this research by interviewing leaders from large, global companies, asking them to describe their most important digitally-enabled business transformation initiative. From there we developed a model, tested the preliminary findings in more than 50 workshops with senior executives, identified capabilities needed, conducted several surveys to test those capabilities and show links to financial performance, and interviewed many companies to help us understand what it takes to transform a business. The book resulted from five years of research which shows that the senior executives of top performing firms honestly answered the six questions. To help, each chapter concludes with a self-assessment on one of the six questions. The reader can then compare their self-assessment results to top financial performers to help leadership teams understand the gap they have to close.

 

Needed: Honest Conversations about the Future

Of the six parts, is there one step that more organizations get stuck in than another?

Probably the hardest question for most organizations is having an honest conversation about whether they have leadership, at all levels, who will persevere and successfully deliver the business transformation. Along the way the culture will have to change and adapt to the new digital business model and often this means changing people at the top. But it is not just the top layer of leaders that has to change. Successful transformation requires getting the whole company to behave differently – from the board to the lowest level of employees. For example, DBS Bank in Singapore, which was one the Euromoney’s most digital banks in 2016 has managed to get 14,800 of their 22,000 people involved in a digital innovation activity every week.

 

“Successful transformation requires getting the whole company to behave differently – from the board to the lowest level of employees.”