What Do You Do When You Need a Short Break?


What Do You Do When You Need a Short Break?

When you take a short break, do something that will leave you focused and switched on. Avoid the traps.

In some of the most liveable cities on the planet, you rarely see any street advertisements, because they are restricted by law. The local law makers have apparently come to a conclusion. They are deciding that residents are happier when they have the chance to get lost in their thoughts. The chance to enjoy the cityscape or simply mind their own business, when roaming the streets.

In the meantime, the city I live in is one of those places also deemed to be highly liveable. However, brightly lit billboards have begun to popup rapidly, even in the suburbs.

So when I decide to have a relaxing stroll, the city does a great job of keeping my monkey brain entertained.

Instead of having to be alone with my own thoughts – some of which are admittedly rather confusing or scary – my eyes are conveniently drawn to a variety of colourful and enticing messages. These are messages about products and services I ‘need’ or ‘must watch’ TV shows. I don’t even need to browse my phone while walking. Who should I thank for this?

Unhealthy distractions

On a less sarcastic note, I also find it challenging at times to make my own practice ‘liveable’. On the one hand, I know very well that constant distractions can dampen my mood and harm my productivity. While on the other, I often create my own distractions. I seek easy entertainment on my phone or laptop that can draw my attention away from problems.  Even if this is only for a few moments – just like those bright billboards on the street. The options are limitless.

Let me clarify. I’m not addicted to social media, or other forms of digital entertainment. I actually enjoy going unplugged for a week, or even longer, when I get the chance.

But when I’m at work, the internet is often my go-to place when it’s time to have a quick break. I’m well aware that taking breaks periodically during the day is important for staying productive. However, part of me also feels that I deserve to spend my break time whichever way I like – after all, I’ve earned it.

Does this work for me? No, sometimes it doesn’t

Many popular online platforms are teeming with a cocktail of emotions, ideas and attitudes. You can churn through numerous wise quotes, inspiring and touching stories, exciting and alarming news, as well as hilarious memes and videos, within minutes.

After dropping into this space, even for a short while, I’m not the same person. I’ve probably learnt something useful and had a few laughs, but at the same time, have been left somewhat scattered, impatient and judgemental.

While taking this time-out, my creativity, my empathy, and my ability to concentrate have also taken a break. And while closing a few browser windows only takes a second, it takes much longer to recover my true self and regain a productive state of mind.

It seems to me that I’m not alone in this

Browsing the web for recreation can sometimes become a downward cycle. It’s a bit like sugar – the more you eat, the more you crave. And the more distracted you are, the more you crave distraction.

The impact of digital media on our psychology and wellbeing is a widely researched and discussed topic. I’m sure you’re familiar with some of the facts, so I’m not here to tell you what you already know, or to suggest that you give up something you enjoy.

Review your digital media use

Instead, I’d like to encourage you just to take notice of how your habits around digital media are impacting your thinking, productivity and relationships.

Do you have blurred lines between work and recreation? Do you feel a fear of missing out, or a sense of entitlement (just like I did)?

You might also be interested to observe how people around you are influenced by their own habits, and hear their feedback about the kind of changes they might see in you.

Set new habits

In case you decide to create healthier and more productive habits, let me share what works for me.

Before I check one of my favourite online platforms, I contemplate for a few moments, what kind of place am I about to visit? Is it one that’s like a truly liveable, people-centric city (like Smallville is, in my view)? Or, is it one that’s filled with glowing billboards competing for my attention, displaying alluring messages with a variety of agendas?

Will this visit actually help me feel better and work better? Will I become more switched on and energised, and a more pleasant person to be around?

When the answer is ‘probably no’, I tend to opt for another pastime instead, perhaps listening to music or going for a quick walk.

Because I deserve to take a short break that will make it easier, not harder for me to work well and create magic, and so do you!

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