- Take a real lunch hour
- Take short breaks and get a change of scenery
- Go home
- Rotate being on call — and automate as much as possible
- Always know when your next vacation is
- Employers: provide Time Off In Lieu (or pay for overtime)
- Track and impose norms with structure
- Take responsibility for each other’s well being
- Connect with a wider purpose
I have to say that I’m a bit sick of the narrative that we need time off / to recharge so we can be better workers. Instead, I’d prefer framing it as Jocelyn K. Glei does as asking yourself the question “who are you without the doing?”
The point isn’t just that it’s nice to goof off every so often — it’s that it’s necessary. And that’s true even if your ultimate goal is doing better work: Downtime allows the brain to make new connections and better decisions. Multiple studies have found that sustained mental attention without breaks is depleting, leading to inferior performance and decision-making.Source: How to Take a Break | The New York Times
In short, the prefrontal cortex — where goal-oriented and executive-function thinking goes on — can get worn down, potentially resulting in “decision fatigue.” A variety of research finds that even simple remedies like a walk in nature or a nap can replenish the brain and ultimately improve mental performance.
I’ve used quite a bit of Ben Werdmuller’s software over the years. He co-founded Elgg, which I used for some of my postgraduate work, and Known, which a few of us experimented with for blogging a few years ago.
Ben’s always been an entrepreneur and is currently working on blockchain technologies after working for an early stage VC company. He’s a thoughtful human being and writes about technology and the humans who create it, and in this post bemoans the macho work culture endemic in tech:
Ben comes up with some 'rules':
It’s not normal. Eight years into working in America, I’m still getting used to the macho culture around vacations. I had previously lived in a country where 28 days per year is the minimum that employers can legally provide; taking time off is just considered a part of life. The US is one of the only countries in the world that doesn’t guarantee any vacation at all (the others are Tonga, Palau, Nauru, Micronesia, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands). It’s telling that American workers often respond to this simple fact with disbelief. How does anything get done?! Well, it turns out that a lot gets done when people aren’t burned out or chained to their desks.
All solid ideas, but only nine rules? I feel like there's a tenth one missing:
After all, if you don’t know the point of what you’re working for, then you’ll be lacking motivation no matter how many (or few) hours you work.
Source: Ben Werdmuller
Appropriately enough, it was during a lunchtime run that I listened to the latest episode of Jocelyn K. Glei’s excellent podcast. It featured Alex Pang, writer and futurist, on the benefits of rest for the creative process.
He talked about a number of things, but it confirmed my belief that you can only really do four hours of focused, creative work per day. Of course, you can add status-update meetings and emails to that, but the core of anyone’s work should be this sustained, disciplined period of attention.
Four really concentrated hours are sufficient to do one’s most critical work, they’re sufficient to do really good work, and for whatever reason they seem to be the physical limit that most of us have.In addition, he introduced terms such as 'deliberate rest' and 'cognitive momentum' which I'll definitely be using in future. A highly recommended listen.
Source: Hurry Slowly