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

Never Stop Learning

never stop learning

Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive

 

Almost every conference I have attended in the last ten years has highlighted the rapid changes that we are experiencing in every aspect of society. Companies need to evaluate digital futures, new technologies, and global strategies. Individuals need to develop plans to keep developing their skills.

How do we best deal with this constant pace of change?

Brad Staats is an associate professor of operations at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. His new book, Never Stop Learning: Stay Relevant, Reinvent Yourself, and Thrive, provides the framework to help all of us become dynamic learners. He says that, “If we fail to learn, we risk becoming irrelevant.”

He also says that we aren’t so great at learning.

I recently spoke with him about his extensive research into learning.

 

“One of the most powerful ways we can learn from others is to ask, ‘What do you think?’ and be open to the answer.” -Bradley Staats

 

Learning is a Key Differentiator

Why is learning more important today than in past generations?

Learning has always been a key competitive differentiator. What has changed is that things are moving faster and increasingly we are in a winner take all (or at least most) environment. There are four factors I’d highlight that are driving these changes. The first is routinization. Through the use of technology (information and otherwise) we can knock out repeatable tasks. That means our attention can turn to new things where we can innovate. If one looks at job changes in the US over the last 30 years, the data reveals that routine jobs are flat and growth has only occurred in the non-routine settings.

jobs

The second driver is specialization. Knowledge around us is increasing, often exponentially. It is estimated a physician would need to read 29 hours a day to stay current on all the necessary knowledge. So we are forced to pick areas to dig in. The third driver is globalization. In the 1990’s, in particular, the global economy opened up as countries like India, Russia, Brazil and China flooded the global labor market with talented individuals. Success is no longer a local affair, it is a global one. Finally, we have digitization. We can capture knowledge digitally and share it around the world. All of these factors mean that great products and services can quickly capture markets and squeeze out others—so we have to learn if we are going to stay relevant. As Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has said, “Ultimately, the ‘learn-it-all’ will always do better than the ‘know-it-all.’”

 

“Whatever we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” -Otto Rank

 

Why are we so bad at learning?

Why How We Do Anything Means Everything

How

How

How we think, how we behave, how we lead, and how we govern are some of the “hows” that are the subject of Dov Seidman’s book, How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.

It’s a thoughtful book, not the type to read in one sitting, but one filled with experience and perspective that will change the way you think about the world and your role in it.

Dov Seidman is the founder and CEO of LRN, an organization that helps companies navigate complex legal and regulatory environments and build ethical corporate cultures. He was also named one of the “Top 60 Global Thinkers of the Last Decade” by Economic Times.

 

What inspired you to update and release this new version of How? 

When HOW first appeared, I argued that we were entering what I called the Era of Behavior. I felt compelled to update and enhance HOW because since then, it has become clear that we haven’t just entered the Era of Behavior. We’re way deep in it. Our behavior matters even more than I thought when I wrote the book, and in ways I never imagined.

Our world is not just rapidly changing, it has been dramatically reshaped. We’ve gone from being connected to interconnected to globally interdependent. Technology is bringing strangers into intimate proximity at an accelerated pace, affording us richer experiences, but also demanding new levels of empathy and understanding. These same technologies are granting us MRI vision into the innermost workings of traditionally opaque organizations and even into the mindsets and attitudes of their leaders. We’re now living in a no-distance world where our moral imagination has exploded.

To thrive in this reshaped world, how we behave, lead, govern, operate, consume, engender trust in our relationships, and relate to others matter more than ever and in ways they never have before.

 

“Leadership is about how we get people to act and join us.” -Dov Seidman

 

Leadership Lessons from the Wave

What leadership lessons can be drawn from “The Wave?”

An act like The Wave is such a perfect metaphor for the style of leadership we need today. At its core, leadership is about how we get people to act and to join us. When you think about it, there are really only three ways to do this. You can Coerce, Motivate or Inspire. Coercion and motivation, threatening with sticks or bribing with carrots, come from without and happen to you. Inspiration, however, comes from within. When people make a wave in a stadium, what makes them express themselves by standing up out there is what comes from inside. In business, what inspires others to join in waves is the sense that they are on a journey worthy of their loyalty that embodies their deeply held beliefs and ideals.

Further, if you consider the Wave as a process of human endeavor, you realize immediately that anyone can start one—an enthusiastic soccer mom, four drunken guys with jellyroll bellies, or eight adolescents who idolize the team’s star player. You don’t have to be the owner of the stadium, the richest or most powerful person there, or even a paid professional like Krazy George Henderson, the Oakland Athletics cheerleader who invented the Wave in 1981. No one takes out their business card and says, “My title is the biggest; let the Wave start with me.” Anyone can start a Wave; it is a truly democratic act.

 

“Anyone can start a wave.” -Dov Seidman

 

Harness the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break

Give Yourself a Break

Most of us feel like the world we live in is continuing to move at a faster and faster pace. The rate of technological change is accelerating in a way that makes many of us feel we will never catch up.

Whether it’s home automation, smart cars, or artificial intelligence, nearly everything is being reinvented.

At work, expectations go up each month. We are trying to do more with less, wringing out every last minute of productivity, locked in a world of global competition.

Do you ever feel the need to pause? To take a deep breath?

Rachael O’Meara was working at Google as a customer support manager when she started to struggle. She was burned out and knew that she couldn’t continue without making major changes.

She decided to pause.

And, after giving herself a powerful break, she now shares her experience with all of us. Her new book—with what I think is a spectacularly simple and clever book cover—is Pause: Harnessing the Life-Changing Power of Giving Yourself a Break. I recently spoke with her about her experience and her new book.

 

“The wisdom is in the pause.” -Alice Walker

 

What’s the Rachael O’Meara definition of a pause?

I define a pause as any intentional shift in behavior that allows you the space to experience a mental shift in attitude, thoughts, or emotions that otherwise wouldn’t have occurred. A few examples are taking a long deep breath, not checking your phone for a set period of time, or doing something outside of your comfort zone that you are interested in. Taking a pause isn’t so that you can think more. It’s to do the exact opposite. It’s the space for you to step away from your everyday life and not focus on what is ruling your thoughts.

 

“Decision is a risk rooted in the courage of being free.” -Paul Tillich

 

Take a Daily Pause

Talk about the daily pause. What’s the best way to do it?

Pausing can allow new ideas to emerge, more satisfaction, and new ways of being and behaving that are aligned with what matters to you. The only requirement is your conscious choice to decide to shift your behavior. One of the easiest ways to do this is through what I call daily pauses. The best way to do this is to start simple and follow your breath. Sit or stand with both feet firmly on the ground and close your eyes if you are comfortable doing so. Place one hand on your diaphragm and slowly inhale, hold your breath, and slowly exhale. Count each inhale until you get to ten breaths. A few other ways to get started is to create a daily one-minute “mindful” pause – while you do something else or on its own notice what you feel, see, hear, taste or smell. Expressing gratitude is another great daily pause where you can set a timer for one or two minutes and write or say as many things that come to mind.

 

5 Signs That You Need a Pause

  1. You use to love your job; now you loathe it.
  2. The boss tells you it’s not working out.
  3. An intervention separates you from your technology.
  4. A major life event, challenge, or change happens.
  5. A new opportunity reveals itself.

 

You share your story of working at Google, your near burnout, your personal experience with a pause. If you fail to take daily pauses, does that build up to a need to take a longer one?

Pausing is about what works for you and consciously choosing to shift. It may not be realistic to take a long pause as I did. Daily pauses are a great way to tune in and notice what you’re feeling or follow a desire that brings you joy or feels nourishing. In my case, I hadn’t done any of that and I wasn’t present to myself or aware of what could help me before I got into my burned-out situation. A pause by no means needs to be that long, and the idea is that if you can build it into your day to shift your behavior that aligns with what matters to you, you can avoid burning out and instead choose to have more breaks within a day and notice what really matters.

 

“The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it’s a really different kind of life.” -R. Buckminster Fuller

 

We live in a society where many feel they can’t even take their vacation days, let alone a long pause from work. Why is this toxic?

Leaders: Choose Your Season

Time to Pause

This morning I went for a walk in the woods behind my house. It’s that time of year when winter’s line is blurring into spring, and spring is beginning to win. The trees remain leafless, and yet, if you look closely enough, you can see the tiniest hints of green scattered here and there. Days are beginning to shift and I feel the restlessness of nature. A slight wind is at first cold and biting before it shifts to a warm, teasing breeze. Walking to the back of the house, I glance up and watch quietly as a small bird ducks under the deck, carrying twigs to make a nest. Spring, undoubtedly, is on the way.

The changing of the seasons. I’m not sure why, but it makes me stop and think more. It’s time for a pause, a look back and a look ahead.  Spring is an exciting time, filled with new possibilities.  To fully take advantage of its hope, we need to discard what we are carrying to free us to take on new opportunities.

 

“You cannot change the seasons, but you can change yourself.” –Jim Rohn

 

Behind us, let’s leave:

  • The ideas of yesterday that didn’t work.
  • The insults and criticisms that others launched, still clawing at us.
  • The clutter of our lives. Yes, spring cleaning allows us to remove the physical clutter. But don’t stop there. It’s the spring cleaning of our thoughts that will yield a great future.
  • The missed goals of what we didn’t do. Holding onto them will only weigh us down.
  • The negative people who don’t believe in us and don’t join our vision.
  • The regrets of yesterday that we continue to allow to rule over today.

 

“Each of us is imbued with the power to choose to the season of our mind.” -Skip Prichard

Leadership Tip: Leave behind the negative people who don’t join your vision.

 

Ahead of us, let’s grab onto:

  • The dream that we shoved into the drawer, but hold onto.
  • The new idea that may prove to be the catalyst of our future.
  • The untried, the experiment, the positive.
  • The new friends who inspire us and push us out of our comfort zone.
  • The wisdom of the past that whispers its undeniable truth.
  • The happiness that trembles just beneath the surface, wanting to inspire.

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” -Stephen Covey

Leadership Tip: Embrace friends who inspire and push you out of your comfort zone.

 

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