The Most Productive Thing You Can Do Is Stop.

by Joseph Kennedy

Wait, hold up, that title doesn’t make sense, does it?

Why on Earth would we be telling you to stop what you’re doing?

Well, our dear entrepreneurial readers, that’s because we are going to explain some of the benefits of taking a break.

We want to help you excel in everything that you do, and in order to do that, sometimes you need to just take a rest.





The brain is a machine like any other

It needs to cool down, it needs regular maintenance, and it needs upgrades. You can do all of these things by taking a rest. Overworking your brain in pursuit of your project is exhausting and it’s going to leave you struggling to summon the energy to have the powerful impact that you desire.

Daniel O’Connor, Sustainability Entrepreneur’s founder, shares this story, “I was in a training workshop by a chap called David Hieatt, who is the co-founder of Hiut Denim, and the Do Book company, and also Howie's, the clothing company. He told us a story about an experiment that they did back when everybody did manual labour. I'm talking about the early 1800s. There was an experiment where they had twenty men, and they had to fill a railroad wagon full of stones, by hand or using shovels and spades, and they did the work with no break, filling 14 wagons in a day. So, they gave them the next day off, and the following day they said 'for every hour you work, you're going to get a 20 minute break. So, they worked the same amount of time, but they filled 20 wagons because of the resting allowed. They could recoup their energy. They could have some food. They could have some water. They could eat a bit of protein to mend the muscles. They could eat a bit of slow-burning carbohydrate to give them energy. At that point people started to realised, if you give people breaks, they're going to be more productive.”


Regular breaks are scheduled maintenance for the brain

In that case, the Pomodoro technique might just be the best repair-technique that you’ve ever been introduced to. It comes in two standard forms, either work for 25 minutes and rest for 5, or work for 50 minutes and rest for 10. Use these breaks to get away from the computer or your phone and instead get some fresh air, sunlight, food, and drink some water. You’ll come back to your task feeling a little bit revived and ready to continue.


Find a system that works for you

If you work in an office, the Pomodoro technique might not swing with your boss and colleagues, as they might get the hump with you wandering off every 25 minutes to take some personal leave. You should be respectful of that and try to disguise your breaks whichever way you can.


There will be firefighting days

On tough and busy days when you spend the whole day fighting fires and solving problems, you might see no benefit to taking a break as it’s going to distract you from getting things done. You’re wrong. Sorry to tell you this, but those days of solving problems and fighting fires are best served when you take regular breaks. You can use those breaks to consider your approach and strategy, rather than acting impulsively.


What do our mentors say?

Daniel: I got into the habit of taking regular short breaks when I worked at Newcastle University. Three of four times a week I’d take a break in the middle of the day and play 5-a-side football. My boss knew I’d come back refreshed, full of energy and ideas and with a better approach to my duties. I used to cycle to and from work and I’d use this time to have amazing insights about my work that would make me more productive. On the way home, I’d use that cycle time to process what had happened.

Joseph: I read about the Pomodoro technique the first week that I started my business and it became a subconscious habit. I don’t even need to look at the clock anymore, I just find myself making a brew or playing my ukulele at regular intervals. Just getting off the screen for 5 minutes does me a world of good and I usually find my fingers typing at lightning speed when I come back!


Exercise works too

Drop and give us 20 push ups! You might think we are kidding, but nothing gets the blood circulating better than exercise. If you can use your 5 minutes productively to raise your heart rate, what you will also do is unleash your energy stores and build new and useful brain cells.


Instagram, news, sports updates - not a break

Moving from one screen to another does not count as a break. Watching Instagram stories or looking at the football headlines does not count as a break. You need to get up and do something less digital for a while. You can make a phone call, say hi to colleagues, step outside for fresh air or exercise. Walk up and down stairs and through corridors. Just don’t sit still and get sucked into another screen, as it doesn’t rest or inspire you.

If you’re really dedicated to your hustle, you’ll have a relevant paperback to read for a few minutes while you drink a cup of tea. You can also look at your calendar and make sure you’ve got your priorities in order.

You could even grab a PDF or a book, and go sit somewhere quiet to have a cup of tea. There are ways to take breaks, and still be “working”. But, the best break is to just to stop working for a short time. Do exercise, go for a walk, have a snack or sit and chat with your mates.


Good luck Sustainability Entrepreneurs

Think, rest, return refreshed. The world is counting on us.

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