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3 Science proven Ways to Take Breaks at Work

Have you been at least once in a situation where you have eaten your lunch break at your desk?

We all get so focused in our work lives that often forget that we are humans and we need to do normal activities in order to take care of our bodies, live healthily and spend time for ourselves.

So my question in this post is – do you take proper breaks at work? How long does your usually break take?

Here are 3 proven by science ways to take breaks and feel more relaxed at work:

Distract and Recharge

Studies have shown that intense focus on work makes us less focused in the long run. According to the University of Illinois psychology professor Alejandro Lleras – our brains naturally stop registering sights, sounds, and feelings if they remain consistent for a period of time with how they react to thoughts that remain consistent for long periods of time. “If sustained attention to a sensation makes that sensation vanish from our awareness, sustained attention to a thought should also lead to that thought’s disappearance from our mind,” Lleras explains.

So instead of constantly thinking about a single problem’s solution, you can create distractions that will take away your attention from the task, so after you can come back with a fresh mind.

Regarding that try out this method by watching cute puppy videos, play Scrabble, talk to a friend – but don’t take too long – after all you are still at work!

Relax your Eyes

Most of us spend around 6-9 hours a day on a digital device so it is not surprising that our eyes take the burden of much of our tech-fueled lives. Fortunately, there is a simple exercise that will help you take a vision break and reduce your eye fatigue called: 20-20-20. Every 20 minutes look away from your computer screen and focus on an item at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.  Easy as 1-2-3.

Besides taking breaks to protect your eyes, there are other simple ways to protect your vision throughout the day:

  • Dim your lights: Your computer screen should be the brightest thing in the room.
  • Reduce glare: Try an anti-glare screen cover, clean your screen regularly, and make sure you’re not too close to a window.
  • Make your workspace more eye-friendly: appropriate ergonomics help diminish weakness in your entire body but your eyes especially.

Let Your Mind Wander

There are a couple of various methods of meditation that show positive results – everything from reducing anxiety and stress to increase the ability to focus. If a zen routine isn’t your style, there is another way.

A report published in Science magazine found that simply taking some time to let your mind wander can help you come up with more ideas, clever thoughts and uncover hidden answers when you’re back at work. The best part is that you might not even need to do anything. When we stop paying attention to anything, our brain’s Default Mode Network takes over which gives our mind a well-deserved rest.

NYU psychology professor Scott Barry Kaufman found that daydreaming is an incredible way to access our unconscious and allow ideas that have been silently incubating to bubble up into our conscious. Meaning that while you believe that you’re doing nothing, you’re actually mining profundities of your mind for more creative solutions to the problems you’re confronting.

 

When done correctly, breaks can actually be the ultimate productivity hack, because they help us relax and allow us to do more in less time. Contrary of the popular believes in our culture of doing, where breaks are considered to be unproductive.

To reduce long working hours and burnout, simply take a break. We know we all deserve it.

3 ways to avoid burnout and boost your team’s productivity

The number of tips and tricks to boost your team’s productivity is constantly rising. The problem is that much of these tips focus on short-term performance, and they damage the efficiency in the long run. Instead of focusing on team’s well-being and prosperity, teams are putting too much pressure to complete the ever-growing to-do list which can result in long working hours, stress, and eventually, burnout.

Luckily, there are a number of sustainable solutions that you can implement to achieve team productivity.

Make Work Meaningful

People are satisfied when they work on something that’s important to them and towards something they feel invested in. There is a direct connection between discovering meaning in work and high productivity.

Start by finding out what motivates your team

Create a survey to find out your employees’ satisfaction, asking the question: “What would cause you to take another job with a different company tomorrow?”

Provide regular one-to-one feedback sessions with your team members. These feedback sessions shouldn’t just be a one-way talk on how the team member is performing, but a chance to see how they are enjoying their role, talk about their future goals and plan how they aim to achieve them.  

Implement importance through professional development

Help your team members find meaning in their work by providing them with self-reflection. Ask them questions like: What are you working for? What impact do you want to create in your job?

This can help employees feel that they are trusted and respected, and increase the level of commitment and productivity. Once you’ve identified what impact they would like to make and how you can start by providing them with more investment in their work and create professional development plans so they can achieve that impact.

Ensure Focused Workloads

Prevent your team members from trying to handle too many tasks at once. Studies have shown that switching to a new task while in a middle of another increases the time it takes for both tasks to be finished.

Streamline tasks with project sprints and retrospectives

Sprints can empower all kinds of teams to work in a more focused way. Setting key points with your team is going to ensure that your work is focused and eliminate the chance of bouncing between unrelated tasks. Employees can streamline their tasks over each sprint when moving tasks through to completion. The team can glance back at what has been accomplished during that sprint, in order to improve the work productivity.

Establish healthy working guidelines

In this era of constant Slack notifications, emails on phones, and working across time zones, having a defined working cut-off hours from 9-5 isn’t so easy to implement. Individuals who are unable to detach from work during their downtime experienced more exhaustion compared to the ones who are able to distance themselves from highly demanding work. It is proven that these people can recover from stress more easily, which leads to higher productivity levels.

In order to establish a healthy working environment in which team members should feel free to distance themselves from work in their downtime, you ought to establish some guidelines for when employees are not expected to read and respond to messages, such as 6pm-9am. You can also encourage team members to set up a do-not-disturb period for notifications.

Support the Work-Life Balance of your team members

In order to increase your employee’s productivity, you should make sure that their time at work supports their well-being.

Provide flexible working hours

Support your team well-being by offering adaptable working options. Your employees would like the possibility to work from home from time to time. This practice should be encouraged because it boosts the team productivity. Workers who were allowed to work flexibly achieved more and were much happier in their work.

There are a number of tools that can help you enable effective remote working:  Slack, Uberconference, GitHub, Dropbox, and Harvest or Time Doctor.

Encourage well-being activities at work

Between everyday responsibilities, it is very hard for people to find the time for activities that are useful to their physical and emotional wellbeing. For that matter, some companies are providing the opportunity to support well-being inside the work environment, and there are seeing extraordinary outcomes and productivity.

So regardless of whether you are more inspired by mindfulness sessions or you think that your team would appreciate an additional physical activity, try to get an expert to your office to convey a weekly wellbeing program. You could also offer each team member an individual well-being budget or an extracurricular course of their choice.

 

There are a lot of great ideas on how to improve your team’s productivity. Keep in mind that every team is different, so the best practice is to discuss these issue and come up with a solution that you feel comfortable using and will lead to great results. The best solution, however, is to be strategic, not obsessive with your to-do list.

If you start researching you can see that most companies have leaders that have strong operational that are needed to maintain perfect organization and productivity in each team. Which of course is crucial when running a business.

The lack of employees with know-how, experience, and confidence can bring down your business and cause problems that can not be fixed in time. In some cases, this means total anarchy in the company, missing respect, and managerial hierarchy – mostly seen in the companies or startups where the lean organizational structure is practiced.

10 tips on practicing to become a strategic leader

But it does not matter if you are a new small business owner or a startup founder. Having a strong leadership and management in the company is the key to running a successful business.

According to a research done in 2015 among 6,000 senior executives analyzed only 8 percent of them turned out to be strategic leaders or those effective at leading transformations. But what it takes to be a strategic leader to run a company in good times and bad times through different transformations? Here are several tips that you can practice to become a successful strategic leader:

  • Distribute responsibility – one of the things you can do regarding the distribution of responsibilities is to know your own current and future role and responsibilities of the company after which to identify each employee’s duties and level of responsibilities. That way you will have a clear structure of roles and responsibilities in the company as well as you can be informed of the potential each employee has  as well as be ready for possible restructure if needed

 

  • Be honest and open when sharing information – employees prefer honesty instead of internal PR and missing out of important company information that is considering their work position and future in the company. So being open is hones can build strong loyalty towards you and the company

 

  • Have several ways for raising and testing ideas – from brainstorming to A/B testing, from encouraging one to one meetings with team members to open discussions, there are multiple ways to bring out ideas within the team and boost team work and team spirit.

 

  • Create a safe environment for failure – most people have fear of failing which can lead to demotivation, lack of contributing to team work and fear of losing their job. That is why it is crucial to use methods like test-driven development, eliminate the blame game points and reward some failure moments, divide failures into: preventable, complexity-related, and intelligent mistakes and deal with them with a different approach, and create best practices for safety and risk management to avoid unavoidable failures in complex systems.

 

  • Give access to another strategist – diversity and different point of view can always be beneficial for the company, especially when it comes to strategies from different industries or teams that can see things objectively and share ideas for improvement.

 

  • Provide opportunities for experience-based learning – real-life experience has often shown that working in outside environment can boost learning, brainstorming, developing new ideas and boosting team work. Having that combined with opportunities like month climbing, cycling, fun games, swimming etc can give surpassing results among the team

 

  • Hire for transformation – not just to fill in someone else’s spot. If your company is growing and developing, then hiring new competencies is an important requirement for seeking executive talent from outside your organization.

 

  • Bring your whole self to work – embrace the fact that you can be vulnerable. Too often we avoid difficulties, challenges, and conflicts with others because we’re afraid of the consequences of speaking up. But, if we engage in those kinds of conversations, we can increase our ability to resolve conflicts and create deeper connections.

 

  • Find time to reflect – period for you to create a good  time-management schedule, self-retrospective, and organization as well as one-thing-at-a-time focus

 

  • Let the leadership development be your ongoing practice – don’t push yourself to bring results in a short period of time. Unleashing leadership potential in all employees will help you develop your leadership skills as well, boosting team spirit and helping company growth.

As a freelancer, who has worked both from home and various public places, I welcomed the new trend of co-working very enthusiastically. Because finally, there is an innovative alternative to traditional office spaces which allows people to thrive professionally and personally in a collaborative work environment.

Co-working as a working style means a whole lot of people, from different companies and industries under one roof. This also means sharing office space. Conference rooms. Break rooms. And everything that a co-working space offers to its members. What is probably the greatest thing about this whole concept is the chance to network with all these people. Build a personal network of connections. And create business partnerships, with the possibility of expanding your business and client list.

While in my experience working in a co-working space can provide numerous benefits, being around other people in such vibrant, energetic, and buzzing space has impacted a lot on my productivity. In most cases, people using co-working spaces can be seen as more passionate about their work from one side. And want to be productive and time efficient on the other side.

So, here are a few tips from my experience, that can be beneficial for you and can boost your productivity:

  1. Be self-disciplined – Keep yourself accountable.  It is very easy to get distracted in a social environment like a co–working space, so writing down tasks and completing them is a good foundation for a productive habit;
  2. Take a break – It is very important, in order to keep yourself focused, to take regular breaks. A break doesn’t necessarily mean running a personal errand. It can simply be getting up and stretch or move around for a couple of minutes;
  3. Be engaged – Engaging oneself means to be productive to your work or your team. Otherwise, it is just a waste of time. Personal time tracking can be crucial in maintaining productivity. You can use Toggle as one of the most intuitive time trackers. RescueTime app has proven to be very helpful in providing insight on my time management, as it runs in the background and tracks time spent on apps and websites, and delivers detailed reports on time spent on replying emails or browsing social media;
  4. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail – Having a general plan for the day or week gives you a direction and structure. This keeps you on the right track and reminds you of what was done and what was not.
  5. Good work rewards – After completing a task or achieving a milestone, reward yourself for the good work. This makes the work easier and encourages hard work. Pick your own rewards;
  6. Defeat Procrastination – Large projects can be broken down into smaller chunks and set smaller tasks, so that you don’t get distracted by the environment, trying to avoid doing what has to be done;
  7. Be tech sassy – Use technology to your advantage, by synchronizing emails, events, calendars. Use websites that store all your documents and data in a cloud. Digitalize everything to avoid cluttering your workspace with paper. This will not only save time but boost your productivity too;

Besides all this, maybe the most important thing is taking care of yourself. Being surrounded by highly passionate and business driven people can be motivating and at the same time can easily make you a workaholic. Getting your beauty sleep will only make you more focused and productive the next day. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, contributes to concentration issues and negative attitude in general.

Working in a co-working space takes some getting used to. But the whole concept and experience can be very rewarding. So, all you need to do is to find the right balance between being social and private.

Digital Nomad tips

One of the biggest social developments of this millennium is the rise of the digital nomads. We all read about them, we all met a couple of them and we all had that thought popped up of being one.

There is no single profession that has a monopoly on who gets to be a digital nomad and who doesn’t. 

digital-nomad-checklist

The one shared factor is  the “digital” part. As long as you have an internet connection you can work from anywhere. So, if you get to travel on business trips, go to conferences or just cannot travel without a laptop on your vacation, you have experienced a small portion of the digital nomad’s lifestyle, and that is working on the road.

As a frequent traveler for work, I face a lot of issues while trying to stay on top of my tasks. From bad internet connection, terrible WIFI Hotspots to over-expensive mobile data plans and more.

To make sure I have the best time while I travel, I had to take a few steps in advance. So no matter what happens I will be better equipped and keep everything going swell.

Here are some tips I do while working and traveling that can you find them useful:

  • First, I make sure the WIFI is strong and reliable in the place I am accommodated. Well, obviously I can never be absolutely certain. But I can take some precautionary steps to ensure I mitigate any risks when it comes to finding strong and reliable WIFI. If your work is dependent on the high-speed internet, I recommend you to run a speed test as soon as possible. You can even ask the owner/staff to run a speed test and share the results with you.
  • Another great way is bringing my own hotspot. In some situations, I have bought a local SIM card, popped it up in the hot spot and took my own internet wherever I was. Mobile phones can be used the same way, but bear in mind, when traveling internationally, using data on roaming can really impact your phone bill, depending on where you travel.
  • digitalnomad travel tipsWhen I am planning for my next location, I make sure I do my research on nearby cybercafés or cafés such as Starbucks, free wifi hotspots like public parks and libraries, and of course nice co-working spaces. Or I make a list and keep it in hand, one never knows when it may be needed. Sometimes I even ask my friends who have been on that location to share me some locations links and I store them in my Google Trips app.
  • What has been proven as a safe and good strategy for me is keeping offline copies of all my  files\materials I might need to access. Gmail offers Offline access, but note that if you have multiple accounts you will be able to access your accounts you were most recently logged into. Using a desktop mail program will store your emails onto your computer as well as in the cloud. So, whenever you find yourself without internet access, you can always go through all of your emails you didn’t get to answer, save replies as drafts and send them out when the internet is back on.
  • It is also extremely useful to have an online backup of your files. This way you can access them from any computer, wherever you can find an internet connection. A lot of free services can be found online, like Dropbox, SugarSync, Carbonite etc.
  • Managing expectations of clients, partners, colleagues, and even family can be very helpful in these situations. If your internet is not reliable, just warn them about it. This can spare you a lot of stress and anxiety when you are on a deadline.

Going offline will often give you the focus on getting chunks of your work accomplished. You will be able to eliminate distraction such as social media and focus increasing your productivity.

Being a digital nomad or just a person who likes to travel and get things done, work-wise while traveling, can be so much fun if you stay organized. If you are still new in this field and you want to read a bit more you can look up digital nomads like – Robert Reid > @reidontravel, which I really like. I follow him because he investigates the experience worldwide for National Geographic. Or on the other hand, you can check out the Reddit community: https://www.reddit.com/r/digitalnomad.

 

Have you had experience as a digital nomad? Feel free to share your thoughts and comments. And I would love to hear your stories while overcoming those or some other obstacles as a digital nomad.

Digital Nomad Checklist (Download for Free)