If something is not working, you are having a mental block, or you are getting frustrated with a situation, step away and clear your head. Your ability to mentally get through these types of challenging times is an important skill. Part of the mastery of this skill is to know when to give yourself a break to refresh that fragile mental state. Even in times of high intensity and urgency, the ability to take a step back and refocus on the situation is important. You can choose to spin your wheels or take a breath.
How long you step away is up to you based on the immediacy of what is going on around you at the time. Even a minute to push your chair back and not look at your computer could be beneficial during crucial times. If you can afford it, take a couple of minutes to get some water, or even better, if timed right, get up to take a lunch break. It doesn’t mean walking away from an important meeting or confrontation, unless it makes sense. You need to make an individual assessment of the situation prior to doing this. However, stepping away to clear the head is invested time that allows you to then come back with new energy and focus.
When you do choose to do it, you are not walking away from the problem. You are walking away for an answer and for a fresh perspective. Walking away can help soften some of the stress and create enough of a change in atmosphere to get the juices flowing again or calm you down from major frustration. I have had many days during which I drank a lot of water or twisted the chair around. There are other days when I have had to stick my tongue out at the computer, have a quick laugh at how immature I just was, and move on with the day.
We all need to take ourselves out of the root cause of a problem or frustration and understand the rejuvenation factor. What you choose to do to break free for that moment can be anything. If you can afford the luxury to read the news, listen to music, take a walk, or even go for a run, it is important to cause a significant enough disruption to your spinning wheels.
The break is important. I have found myself staring at a presentation and getting stuck on a particular page with writer’s block. I have tried to force my way through it by trying to find the next magical words. The inability to think clearly always seemed to get worse as I tried harder. If I just consistently make an effort to recognize that walking away is an important part of the process, I am much better off.
Make it a habit to break up a day of meetings or calls, or just go outside for the fresh air. If possible, try to find a regular time in your work day to schedule time away from the office, or at least step away from your desk. I actually put it on my calendar to take a lunch or break. Whenever possible, I personally like to go for a run and break up the day. I am convinced that since I started doing this I have been more productive and have had more creativity in my day. I am not sluggish at the end of the day. I knew going running on many days would add extra time. However, the increased productivity and satisfaction level actually cut significantly into that extended time. I was getting more done in the same amount of time. I know the concept of stepping away is counterintuitive to the notion of putting our noses to the grindstone, but it is worth it.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby