Thursday, April 4, 2013

I Break For Success

Posted on Thursday, April 04, 2013 by International Coach Federation

“Stop” is probably not something you frequently say to yourself and your clients. It is a dirty word and a radical concept in work cultures where ‘powering through’ is an expectation, a badge of honor, and in some cases, an addiction.

An opinion piece in a February issue of New York Times should be the spark of a work and lifestyle revolution that turns “stop” into our battle cry and marching orders. The article, Relax! You’ll Be More Productive by author and productivity expert Tony Schwartz, is packed with exciting data about the benefits of taking breaks in all shapes and sizes. Here’s a sampler of what got me break dancing:

  • A 2012 study found that sleeping fewer than six hours per night is the best predictor of job burnout.
  • Air traffic controllers who napped an average of just under 20 minutes were more vigilant and had better reaction time than their non-napping counterparts.
  • Longer nappers who nodded off for 60-90 minutes did as well on memory tests as those who slept a full eight hours, according to a nap researcher at the University of California-Riverside.
  • Here’s my favorite one: An internal Ernst & Young study last year found that, for each additional ten hours of vacation a staff member took, her or his end-of-year performance scores improved by 8%. This same study said that frequent vacation-takers were much more likely to remain with the company.
  • Despite the above, in 2011, Americans did not use six of their vacation days, and in 2012, that number skyrocketed to 9, according to a Harris Interactive poll (EU readers are shaking their heads in disbelief right now).
  • Better performers work in intervals of 90 minutes and never work for more than 4.5 hours per day, so say researchers at Florida State University. This may be due to daytime energy rhythms that have many of us cycling from alertness to fatigue every hour-and-a-half.
So, why aren’t we napping on the job, getting the nightly sleep we need and taking the vacation we earn? If we want ourselves, our clients and those who work for us to be more productive and perform at a higher level, this data along with many other recent and well-researched findings say, work less!

Or at least, work smarter.

There’s another compelling reason to take timeouts. Breaks can prevent stress symptoms such as muscle tension, eye strain, bad moods and anxiety from turning into back pain, headaches, poor communication, refrigerator raids, panic episodes and low quality sleep.

Brief breaks rock, too. Take this 3-minute time out with Jordan Friedman’s Quick Calm, deep-breathing exercise.
Why don’t we conduct our own experiments? For those of us who sit in the driver’s seats of our work lives, let’s plan and take regular breaks for a couple of weeks to see if we realize the same payoffs as the subjects of the studies sited earlier. If we do, we need to make breaks permanent and influence others to try this new way of working for themselves and those who work for them. Fortunately, more and more, culture change has come to workplaces who’s leaders have put the breaks on nonstop work habits that many can’t kick on their own.

Continually armed with the latest data and break-taking success stories from workers and employers, we will win the battle for lower stress and greater success.

I leave you with this triumphant statistic: The French, on average, take more time off from work than any other people, and they are consistently ranked as the most productive in the industrialized world. Les miserables? Not anymore.

Jordan Friedman, a.k.a. The Stress Coach, is a global stress management speaker, trainer and former director of Columbia University’s health promotion program. His Stress Coach U program trains coaches and other professionals to teach their clients and students stress reduction techniques ( Jordan is the author of The Stress Manager’s Manual and co-author of The Go Ask Alice Book Of Answers. He provides free how-to videos, exercises and other resources for coaches, trainers and stress- relief seekers at Copyright 2013 Jordan Friedman. Published with permission.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, I love the perspective that you have brought to this topic!

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