September 1, 2011
Work-Life Balance: Taking Breaks Seriously
Most of us understand that taking breaks is often important when it comes to maintaining productivity over the long haul. What we might not be as clear on is that the type of break may matter quite a bit. Recent research reported in the Wall Stree Journal (here) suggests that while we are always likely using some form of attention while we are awake, giving a break to the particular type of attention we generally use while working is key to replenishing ourselves. The suggested distinction is between directed and involuntary attention. A break that gives our directed attention some time to rest is helpful, while a break that changes activities but still requires directed attention is less helpful. The specific contrast highlighted in the article is between taking in the sights and sounds of nature as opposed to strolling down a busy street in town. The former produced a 20% improvement in memory and attention following the break, while the latter produced no improvement. Interestingly, the study suggested that just looking at pictures of nature could produce a similar positive effect.
If looking at pictures of nature seems like it might work for you, permit me to suggest a photobook of snippets from my Zen instructor's dharma talks that I co-authored and which can be found here. (You can find the full version of the talks here.)
Thank you for bringing up an interesting topic. I'm not surprised that a walk down a busy, noisy street isn't as relaxing and replenishing as communing with nature. We have so much noise around us in daily life, even from the radio and tv when we are in the solitude of our homes. Meditation requires a peaceful atmosphere. In order to leave behind the cares and stresses that occupy us, we need to find a quiet place to do so. It's very difficult to quiet the noise in one's head in the midst of a bunch of environmental noise.
Posted by: Dana Altman, Esq. | Sep 1, 2011 9:12:29 AM
A very useful lesson learnt here. Thanks.
Posted by: Prabal Goel | Sep 1, 2011 9:50:30 PM