Mini-Vacations for Maxi-Effectiveness

This is the time of year when we typically plan family vacations lasting a week or more, and often these include travel and extensive planning and preparation.  It’s a great idea to get away with your family, and I heartily approve of exposing kids to new experiences away from home.  But what about the rest of the time, when you are not on vacation?  How stressful is your typical day at work? When you take a break, what do you do? Refill your coffee cup and head back to work? Chat at the water cooler? Take a quick trip to the bathroom and return by way of the candy machine? Go outside and scream at the top of your lungs?

Whatever your break looks like, it’s important to give your mind a break, not just your body.  Yes, definitely get up if you’ve been sitting, and move around.  Walk outside if possible. If your work is physically demanding, then stop and sit down for a few minutes, drink some water and let your body recharge a bit.

But don’t forget to give your mind a break too.  That means you stop thinking about work altogether.  Now, there’s a trick to this.  If I say, “Don’t think about work!” the first thing you’ll think about is… work, right?  You have to focus your attention in a different direction, as if you are tuning your radio to a different station.  For most people, that means we have to deliberately choose something else to think about.

In order to take a refreshing mini-vacation several times a day, choose to think about something that is in no way a burden.  For example, don’t take a break from analyzing last month’s sales figures only to try to solve a different work-related problem or worry about a problem at home.  Instead, think about something you are looking forward to, a fun activity coming up perhaps, or maybe the realization of a goal (not the goal itself or any steps leading to it). Another option is to construct a peaceful place in your imagination and take yourself there for a few minutes.  It can be any kind of place you choose — a beach, a cathedral, a treehouse, a garden, etc.  Imagine how it looks, smells, sounds, feels.  Make sure all your needs are taken care of in that imaginary environment, and no one is asking you for anything.  Then just put yourself in that environment and be peaceful for a few minutes.

This is more important than you might think.  Your mind needs to disengage from time to time in order to deal with what it has encountered so far and prepare for the next round.  Set an alarm on your watch or your computer if necessary, to remind you to take these performance-enhancing breaks.  My personal solution, if you’ll pardon the less-than-polite reference, is to let my visits to the bathroom be my mini-vacations.  Sometimes that’s the only time I can be alone and uninterrupted for a few minutes at a time, and it always happens several times a day, so I don’t forget.  I actually sit on the toilet relaxing my mind in one of the above ways, and when I’m done, I’m ready to tackle all the demands of my day again.  You’d be surprised what beneficial things you can do while sitting on the toilet (guys, if you’re standing, there are just as many options).  In some cases you may have a very brief time for your bathroom break, but take advantage of every second.  Start your mini-vacation as soon as you leave your work, on the way to the bathroom, and don’t re-engage in work mode until the last possible moment when you return to work.

Now, remember, Minimal Effort(tm) doesn’t mean no effort.  This is not an invitation to take many extended breaks that reduce your work performance.  On the contrary, it is intended to help you be more productive while experiencing less stress.  You should be able to accomplish more, better, work in less time and with less stress when you are taking your mini-vacations than when you are just plowing through or flitting from task to task.  As my mentor Bob Proctor says, you don’t have to slow down; you have to calm down.

Oh, and by the way, those family vacations can be pretty stressful themselves.  It’s okay to employ the mini-vacation idea even when you’re on vacation!  Enjoy your mini-vacations and let me know how it’s going.




About ItsMeLaura
I'm here to talk about a multitude of things, some perhaps interesting.

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