Thursday, October 23, 2014

Take the Weekends Off!

When I began my tenure-track position in 2005, I did not have Internet access at home or a smartphone. I remember telling a collaborator not to expect a response from me on Saturdays or Sundays as I did not check email on the weekends. He was astonished. Fast forward to today: I have both web access at home and an iPhone so it’s more challenging to avoid working on the weekends now. But I still make every effort not to.

We all need a real break from work. I’ve found I need time off on the weekends in order to be productive the following week. Our productivity declines precipitously when we try to work more than 40 hours a week. It is, thus, much more effective to consciously limit our working hours so that we can be as productive as possible during those times we are working – and can enjoy our time off, guilt-free.

Still can't believe this beautiful beach in Big Sur is only 3 hours from my home!

What would happen if you didn’t work at all this weekend? I spent a recent weekend in Yosemite National Park, with limited phone and email access. I went on a hike to a waterfall, swam in the cool and clear Merced River, had engaging conversations with friends, and laughed with my daughters. When I came back to work on Monday, I felt rejuvenated and ready to move forward with my writing projects.

If you are used to working all or part of the weekend, here are some ways to spend your time that will ensure you return to work rejuvenated:

1) Take a long walk in the park without your phone. There is scientific evidence that walking helps us think. When was the last time you spent time alone? I mean, really alone, without any electronic devices? If it’s been awhile, you might be surprised what happens when you venture out with just your thoughts.

2) Get some exercise. Go to the gym. Getting your heart rate up can make you feel great. Go lift some weights or run as fast as you can on the elliptical. Go for a swim or take a yoga class. Apart from being good for your heart, there is evidence that exercise is good for your brain.

3) Meditate. There are many mental, spiritual, and physical benefits to meditation. Try it out and see if it works for you. “Mindfulness meditation” has been found to enhance your focus and even reduce your stress levels.

4) Hang out with friends and family. Tell them that you love them. Find out what brings them joy. What about a friend with whom you can share your worries? It can be especially good to spend time with someone who makes you laugh as there are numerous health benefits to laughter.

5) Do something crafty or artistic, even if you’re not very crafty or artistic. Do you have a project lying around you have been meaning to get to? Do you have an easel tucked away in a closet? Pull it out and get painting. Or sign yourself up for a drawing or photography class. It will allow you to be creative on something other than work.

Read the rest on The Chronicle....