Rami's Blog

Like the Yin-Yang, Eastern Martial Arts and Western medicine are two halves of a whole. My mission is to preserve the ancient mind-body tools, and pass them on to you.

 

Want to Get More Work Done? Take a Break.

Welcome back mind-body students! I hope you enjoyed the Greatest Hits Workout last week. This week, we have more of a mind lesson.

If you are like me, you like to get things done. You are very industrious. More likely than not you are zipping around every day with all kinds of plans on your to-do list. Many times, you catch yourself thinking about how you could be doing more stuff in the same amount of time.

People like this are often very successful, but they live in danger of burning out.

"Burnout" is when your mind is still trying to accomplish the tasks at hand, but your body is not rested enough to do so. From a medical standpoint, pushing yourself to the point of burnout can be dangerous. It might include high levels of stress hormones than increase your risk of heart attack, or very low blood sugar that could send your body into shock.

Working yourself to that extent may sound crazy, but people have done it.

Most people will just find that they feel "off their game" or really tired for several days, even a month or two. This isn't medically dangerous unless you begin abusing stimulants like caffeine to make up for the low energy. The worst result will probably be that your quality of work declines, perhaps for a significant amount of time.

So how do people who have busy schedules and high-stress careers avoid burnout, and even accomplish more than before?

Take regular breaks.

In Judaism, we have the ancient idea of the "shabbat" which is a practice of rest one day a week. One day each week may not be enough for a high-profile worker, however. Some people work up more stress than a single day can get rid of, so they need less frequent, but longer breaks. Maybe a 4-day weekend every month (assuming you work most weekends).

This resting phase allows your body and mind to heal and incorporate everything you have learned and exercised since your last break. By relaxing down to a healthy baseline regularly, your metabolic systems can reset and prepare for more work later.

And that's how you can do more work by working slight fewer days each month. Instead of working at 70% productivity every day for a month, you come back to work at 100% productivity (after your mini vacation) and that productivity slowly decreases until you take your next break. Each day that you are working at more than 70% productivity makes up for (and eventually more than compensates for) the few days you took off.

I know, for high-functioning professionals, taking four days off seems like a crazy move. But if you can get more work done, and have a nice vacation each month, and enjoy your life more, and spend more time with your family, the only crazy choice here would be not to try.

Happy Stretching!