It sounds good. I've even blogged about it a few times. Making a point to take time away from work actually makes the quality of your work better.
It's harder than it sounds. Which sounds odd. But it is. It was something I learned last week.
I have the great fortune of having a six week long paternity leave. It's a huge blessing but comes with a lot of time trying to wrap up projects a little early and making preparations so I don't leave my teammates hanging too badly while I'm out. It's a trade off - and a fair one at that.
Last week started off really hectic. The to-do list was a mile long and I didn't feel like I'd ever get through it all a few times. When I got to Wednesday night, I did something a little different. I kept the computer closed.
It was hard. Which is honestly weird to type out right now. But it was.
My mind just had the to-do list that wasn't getting any smaller that night. Certainly I could just use 20-30 minutes making it just a little smaller, right? Instead, I drew a line with myself. I told myself to take the night off on Wednesday. Instead, I read a book and worked on some baby prep around the house. I held off on anything work related until early Thursday morning.
What Happened When I Stepped Away For A Bit?
I wish I could tell you that I woke up and my to-do list had miraculously gotten smaller. It was the exact same size it was when I got home the night before. Something did happen though. The next day...I felt fresher. My mind felt a little sharper. I was probably a little more pleasant to be around.
And that to-do list? I was able to attack it at a much more efficient rate than I had days prior. Ironically, I think I had just as much progress done at the end of Thursday as I would have had I stayed up super late. Weird right? Less time with just as much (if not more) progress? It's a concept I can get behind.
As It Turns Out, It's Science!
I read about this topic in a recent Wired article. It notes that sometimes "slacking off" helps you get more work done. Sounds great, right? Where was that advice in high school?
However, the author is clear to make a point that his point isn't to encourage laziness:
One cautionary point: Pro-leisure science does not give permission to trance out on Twitter or graze Netflix endlessly. Because, hey, all those superproductive folks who worked four hours a day didn’t just park their brains during their off-hours. No, they hiked athletically, played instruments, painted, and chatted with friends in pubs. They were engaged in what Pang calls “active rest.”
So, unless you are backed up against a wall with a client deadline, maybe take a step away from the grind for a moment. Don't zone out. Find something else productive to do. Work another part of your brain.
Surprisingly, you may find that you get more done when you get back to the grind. The quality of that work may also improve!
What do you think? Does stepping away help you? Or is it overrated?