Harvey Schachter's periodic review of ideas and news on balance from the blogs:
"I don't have time."
"I don't have time."
"I don't have time."
If you find yourself repeating that phrase many times each day, it's a sign you need a break, says New Zealand wellness coach Louise Thompson. "Life is a marathon not a sprint, y'all. We are not designed to live at 'flat out' all day, every day. We can do it temporarily, but then it's important to regroup and recharge for the next campaign," she writes on her blog.
She lists six signs you need a break – if two or more apply to you, figure out when to take a breather:
1. You are so pressed for time you are continually protesting your lack of time, which by the way, she insists is a lie. You have time – but rate other priorities higher and are needlessly creating stress with the busyness statements.
2. You are using coffee like a drug to get through the day (as opposed to drinking coffee because you happen to like the taste).
3. Your phone is surgically attached to your body, and you check it a zillion times a day.
4. You wake up feeling tired, which indicates sleep is not as restorative as it should be.
5. You wear "I'm soooooo busy" like a badge of honour, repeating it whenever asked how things are.
6. You can't think of the last time you had fun. "Life is supposed to be fun, yo! It's not meant to be one long never-ending to-do list," she insists.
Successful leaders keep their promises. But too often, only to others.
Michael Kibler, founder and chief executive officer of Corporate Balance Concepts Inc., says his research shows senior executives often are lousy at keeping promises to themselves, sacrificing their own needs for others.
To take care of yourself physically, exercising regularly, eating right, getting enough sleep, and visiting the doctor.
To pursue activities that will help improve your skill set.
To spend time with your family and close friends.
To manage your personal finances with care and attention, and with long-term objectives in mind.
To spend time reflecting on what is most important to you in life, and live and work according to your deepest values.
To participate in a community outside work that truly matters to you.
You can't do it all, of course. He advises you to start with one small but exceptionally meaningful promise to yourself – and then stick to it fully. If you decide more time with family is most important, perhaps commit to eating dinner together at home three times a week for the next two weeks. And if you successfully keep that promise, it should give you the confidence to try another.
Looking to nap during the workday? Your goal should be 20 minutes or 90 minutes, the optimal periods, Rebecca Greenfield reports on Bloomberg.com. As for when to take that break, Christopher Lindholst, chief executive officer of MetroNaps, a sleep pod manufacturer, shares this formula: The midpoint of last night's sleep plus 12 hours. So if you went to bed at midnight and woke up at 6 a.m., you would schedule a 3 p.m. nap. Other experts are more variable with their recommendations, suggesting any time between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
If you can't take a break from work when stressed, as Louise Thompson suggests, here are three alternatives:
1. Find a stress accountability partner. Inc.com contributing editor John Brandon says accountability is the key to handling stress. It's helpful to share struggles, so find someone in the office who seems like a reasonable accountability partner. Explain that you are not working as effectively as you wish and tell them what is causing you the most stress. "Ask that person to keep tabs on you. Meet weekly. It works because half of your battle is just keeping those stressful thoughts bundled up inside your head," he writes.
2. Buy an adult colouring book – there are hundreds to choose from – and use it. Find the joy and relaxation that colouring provided as a child, advises Steve Spring, on Lifehack.org.
3. Wash the dishes. Paying attention to the smell of the soap and the shape of the dishes leads to a mindful state, which one study showed can decrease nervousness by 27 per cent and increase mental inspiration by 25 per cent, PsyBlog reports.
Boredom is not a problem to solve, Gayatri Devi, a professor of English at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, writes in The Guardian. It's the last privilege of a free mind.
Lean into boredom, she advises, calling it an "intense experience of time untouched by beauty, pleasure, comfort and all other temporal salubrious sensations. Observe it, how your mind responds to boredom, what you feel and think when you get bored." Don't replace boredom with work, fun, or habits. The best antidote to boredom is thinking.
Looking for even more activity than your standing desk provides? The Wurf board is a springy platform you stand on, an office surfboard that responds to and encourages gentle movement as you work, Springwise.com reports. It also works with a sitting desk.
Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column, Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter