By Art Markman
Over the past decade, it has become clearer to many that being “on” 24/7/365 is not a recipe for success. Discussions about work-life balance and the need to take vacations are signs that we understand that getting away from work is important for mental and physical health.
It’s useful to dig a little more into what you’re trying to accomplish with your downtime, though. The more you understand about what you’re trying to achieve, the easier it becomes to recognize when you might need to take a little extra time away from work. In addition, you can do a better job of tailoring your activities to what your brain requires in order to hit the ground running when you return to work again.
A Chance to Clear Your Mind
One problem with a constant focus on work is that you often end up thinking about the critical problems you’re facing in the same way, which can lead you to bang your head repeatedly against the same walls. There are several intersecting factors that lead to this similarity in focus.
First, when you remain engaged with thinking about an issue constantly, your description of the problem remains the same. The way you describe something influences what knowledge you’re reminded of that might help you address it. Without getting a new perspective on the problem, you will be unlikely to retrieve other things you know that will help you think differently about it.
By getting away from work for a while, though, three things happen that can benefit your ability to think differently about the problems you’re facing. First, your memory of the problem changes when you step away from it. You tend to think about things more abstractly as specific details that had been your previous focus become less prominent. That can change what you’re reminded of. Second, when you walk away from the problem, the information from memory that has been most accessible so far has a chance to fade, and so you get a fresh opportunity to retrieve new information, which might also result in some…