Monday, April 27, 2009

The art of the study break #2 - maintain commitment

Hi All,

Happy Monday! If the art of the study break #1 is naming your break, then the art of study break #2 is maintaining your commitment to the work. If you can master this you will be able to take even more breaks! You will also be able to enhance your ability to work longer and more effectively.

Last week we talked about naming your break, knowing whether you need a mini-break (five minutes of something else to help you refocus) or a vacation or something in between. When you find that you are not concentrating, or are ineffective hour after hour... be honest with yourself as to what kind of break will help address this block. Then commit to taking that kind of break and nothing more.

So if you've been at it for a few hours and concentration is drifting, take that five minute break and check email... don't call a friend with whom you usually talk for an hour because in that case, you will lose momentum and possibly not even get back to work that day. However, if you know you need a good hour away from the work, then step away and do something else. But here's the secret -- commit to getting back to work after the break! Once you step away, it is easy to stay away. That break time feels good and it's easy to talk yourself out of getting back to work. However if instead, you talk yourself into getting back to work after the break... you will get another chunk of work done and reinforce the fact that breaks can be effective and not derail you.

If you consistently take breaks and then stay on break rather than getting back to work, you will soon stop trusting the breaks. You will hesitate to step away from the work and will then spend more hours in front of the computer where you are not productive. However, if you can consistently take the break and then get back to work, you will trust yourself to take more breaks and this will keep you energized to do more work.

I think this part of the process is a little bit like committing to an exercise routine. Those first few times you get yourself to the gym, it's just plain hard. But after a few times, when you realize that you do feel good after the workout, you have reinforcement to stick with it. Study breaks work the same way, after a few experiences of taking a break and then getting back to work with more energy, you will have the reinforcement you need to honor the break and then honor your commitment to get back to work.

Give it a try! Let me know how it's working.


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