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22 May

Take a real break


Datum: 2017-05-22 14:09

Doing many things at once has its price. And judg­ing by Eyal Ophir’s research at Stan­ford, those who are avail­able in sev­er­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels (such as phone, email, sms, chat chan­nels et c) simul­ta­ne­ous­ly or have many kinds of media turned on (such as stream­ing music or video, Twit­ter or hav­ing many brows­er tabs active) while work­ing, are more eas­i­ly dis­tract­ed by exter­nal fac­tors, more absent-mind­ed and find it more dif­fi­cult to shift between tasks quick­ly with­out los­ing focus.

The con­tent of today’s tip might seem con­tra­dic­to­ry since I wrote about the won­ders lis­ten­ing to music sup­pos­ed­ly will do to your col­lab­o­ra­tive abil­i­ties just a few weeks ago.

All of it, but with­out the backlash
So, what should we do if we still want to remain very avail­able and con­tin­ue our media mul­ti­task­ing, but not suf­fer the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of doing so?

As is often the case, there is a solu­tion to this as well — or at least some­thing we can do to improve our situation.

An actu­al break
In a study done by Thomas E Gor­man and C Shawn Green, the researchers found that the per­son who takes an actu­al break when they are on break” suf­fer few­er neg­a­tive con­se­quences from mul­ti­task­ing than the one who for instance stayed semi-online dur­ing their break. The results were par­tic­u­lar­ly clear in the group of par­tic­i­pants who were heavy media mul­ti­taskers — these peo­ple expe­ri­enced a dis­pro­por­tion­al­ly large pos­i­tive effect of the down-time away from dig­i­tal channels.

Count­ing breaths
To real­ly give them a break from the con­stant flow of infor­ma­tion, the researchers asked the par­tic­i­pants to count their breaths for ten min­utes, and to push a key for every breath and anoth­er for every tenth breath. It was there­fore more or less impos­si­ble to do any­thing oth­er than breathe and count — mean­ing, tak­ing a real break from work.

Do this
If you, like I, want to try and see how tak­ing a real break when you are on a break” any­way will affect you, sim­ply count your breaths the next time you have a break.

If ten min­utes feels too long, try five.

If you are not too keen on breath­ing exer­cis­es, then choose some oth­er way to real­ly take a break and shift your atten­tion com­plete­ly from what you are work­ing on or with. The few­er impres­sions you allow dur­ing this down-time, the greater the effect of the rest (since it is the inflow of impres­sions and infor­ma­tion we want to min­i­mize when rest­ing our minds).

Quick on your feet
If you take actu­al breaks from your work a few times per day, you will, judg­ing by the study I men­tioned, suf­fer few­er neg­a­tive con­se­quences due to the con­stant inflow of infor­ma­tion. You will regain focus faster and become more flex­i­ble and able to quick­ly shift between tasks. For all of you out there who either mul­ti­task vol­un­tar­i­ly or have to since things keep com­ing at you, it might be worth giv­ing this sim­ple method a try and see if it can help you regain or main­tain your composure.

What counts as a break to you?
What kind of breaks do you take? What is the best way you have found to real­ly stop work­ing and rest for a lit­tle while? There are many out there, includ­ing myself, who need to get bet­ter at this so please share your tip in a comment. 

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