Conventional wisdom says that in order to succeed, you must work long hours. The truth is that our left brain, the logical thinking part of our mind, can only function at optimum for one and a half to two hours, and then it needs a break. If you’re one of those people who “chains yourself” to the desk until you get the job done, you’re not using your native resources wisely.

Recently a friend asked me, “What’s the one thing you’ve done this year to create more energy for yourself?” I was surprised to hear myself say: “I allow myself to stop working when I hit that energy wall.” You know what I mean—that point where you have the inner dialogue that goes something like: “I’m tired, but I’m almost finished. I really want to get this done tonight so I can cross it off my ‘To Do’ list. Yes, I’m tired, but I can do it.” Yes you can; you can get that second wind, push through your low energy and get the job done. Then in the morning, you ignore the fact that you’re tired, down your cup or two of coffee and convince yourself that you’re fine.

There is a price to pay, however, and it’s a high one. We can do this every now and then but eventually we deplete our energy. A much more effective strategy is to remind ourselves that almost everything can wait. These days I ask myself: “What will happen if this doesn’t get done today?” The answer is almost always “nothing.” Most deadlines are artificial or of our own making.

I work more efficiently and effectively by taking five to ten minute breaks every one and a half to two hours. Instead of (or in addition to) the standard coffee break, I choose from other options that feed my mind, body and/or spirit, such as:

  • Moving: taking a short walk or doing a few stretches
  • Enjoying natural beauty: taking in the flowers on my desk or outside my window
  • Smiling: looking at photos of my family or remembering something joyful
  • Creating: doodling with crayons, colored markers or colored pens
  • Nourishing my body: snacking on fruit and nuts

Creativity happens when the brain is at rest. Giving yourself some breaks during the day, allows the creative flow to emerge. When you can’t remember a fact, you stop thinking about it and it comes into your mind. This same concept holds true when you are doing a project at work. Give yourself a break and you get the ideas you need.

Yes, this advice flies in the face of everything you’ve been taught. Remember what Einstein said: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different  results.”  So do something different and look for the spectacular results!