Whether you’re a poet, blogger, college student grinding out an essay, or someone with a genuine story to tell — it can be difficult to articulate our message into words.
We get stuck trying to decipher our thoughts into coherent sentences. Suddenly, our brilliant idea becomes not so brilliant because of the struggle that comes with expressing any meaningful message.
Or perhaps you were able to get into the writing flow, but after an hour or so, that laser-focus starts to decline as your mind draws to a blank.
When we hit the inevitable roadblock on our creating process, we are met with 3 options that we can choose from to overcome this hump:
- 1) Think harder — as if that’s possible — to the point of exhaustion.
- 2) Drink more coffee, hoping the caffeine will revive our creativity.
- 3) Take a breather and step away from the screen or notebook.
Unless you’re Jimmy Neutron and can “brain blast” your way into magically innovating a solution out of the blue — thinking harder often leads to grey hairs on your scalp and unnecessary stress.
On the other hand, drinking more coffee can be effective, although I think that there’s a better alternative instead of becoming reliant on the caffeine to give you the wings to fly over a hurdle.
That optimal alternative is option 3 a.k.a. taking a restorative break.
So if you find yourself in a situation where you’re stuck on a sentence like the time SpongeBob had to write an essay, or if you’ve been writing for hours and are beginning to lose focus — it’s time to give your mind some time to breathe.
Allowing Our Mind to Breathe
“By temporarily separating ourselves from our current task, we’re allowing our mind to recharge so that we can return with the clarity and focus we had when we first began.”
Imagine trying to bench press a heavy weight for multiple sets, with little to no rest in between each set. Your form will break down, the barbell will fall on your chest, and you’ll end up injuring yourself like a fool.
A rational person wouldn’t cut their rest short because they understand that that having an efficient break in between is necessary to be able to hit the weight just as hard for the following sets.
It’s no different from writing, and any craft requiring our full attention and energy.
By implementing proper break periods into our creating process, we’re setting ourselves up to be able to give forth our best effort for longer periods.
Psychology professor, Alejandro Lleras, conducted a study in which among the participants who had to work on a computerized task for an hour, the group that was given 2 short breaks had a tremendously better performance in comparison to the groups that had no breaks.
Lleras suggested that:
“Constant stimulation is registered by our brains as unimportant, to the point that the brain erases it from our awareness.”
Hence, by taking a short pause from mentally demanding-activities such as writing, we’re able to reenergize our focus so that we may prolong our productivity with a fresher mind.
So don’t be mistaken that taking your eyes away from the screen and butt off the chair for a few minutes will disrupt your workflow.
If anything, it will enhance it if done properly. And yes, there is a proper way to take a break if you truly want to reap the restorative benefits.
Ultimately, the way we take our break is just as important as how often.
If you spend this time scrolling through social media or on YouTube, you might want to rethink the way you go about your break.
Peeling Our Eyes Away from the Screen
“It’s a matter of what you do during this pause that will determine if your mental batteries will charge to 50% or 100%.”
In pretty much any situation where our mind isn’t being entertained, our first instinct is to pull out our phone.
- There’s an ad during a TV show? We go on our phone.
- At a restaurant and waiting for the food? We go on our phone.
- Driving and get stopped by a red light? Heck, some of us will still reach for our phone.
We find comfort in the screen because the stimulation distracts us from the mundane moments of our day. For this reason, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot whenever we let this instinct leak into our restorative breaks from work.
A 2019 study analyzed the impact of cell-phone usage during work breaks by comparing the level of performance between those who used their phones during their break, and those who didn’t.
Unsurprisingly, those who didn’t use their phone during their break had a greater level of performance compared to those who did.
“The results show that breaks might be better spent without the cell phone, if the goal is to have restored cognitive ability for subsequent work tasks.” — Researchers, Sanghoon Kang and Terri R. Kurtzberg
In situations like writing especially, it’s the time spent away from the screen that will serve the greatest benefit to our mind and focus.
Instead of scrolling through Instagram or Reddit, take a stroll through your neighborhood.
Walk your dogs.
Just don’t walk your fingers over the screen.
Rather than watching videos on YouTube, chillax outdoors and appreciate the clouds coasting across the beautiful sky.
Instead of proceeding to stare at a screen as if you weren’t doing that already, close your eyes and meditate, or even nap if you please.
I can tell you from personal experience that my mental batteries feel fully recharged after going out for a walk and taking in the scenery, as opposed to stimulating my mind with memes on social media during this 20–30 min break.
Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if someone said that they’re going to take a break from drinking soda by drinking diet soda in replacement?
It’d be silly.
Similarly, wouldn’t it ridiculous if someone were to take a break from looking at their computer screen all-day by going on their phone instead?
That’d also be silly, yet a lot of us — including myself — do this often.
So if our goal is to take a brief pause to freshen up the mind, we shouldn’t be reaching for our phone or any other screen.
By temporarily separating ourselves from our current task, we’re allowing our mind to refresh so that we can return with the clarity and focus we had when we first began.
It’s a matter of what you do during this pause that will determine if your mental batteries will charge to 50% or 100%.