“Take the first step in faith. You don't have to see the whole staircase – just take the first step.”
- Martin Luther King, Jr
When you are doing the tough stuff – and by tough stuff I mean job hunting or running your own business - there seems to be so little time to get out and make new connections or develop new skills. It is far easier to keep your head down, close the office door and just work.
So my question to you is, “Why are you hiding?” If the answer is, “I get more done this way,” we need to talk.
There is an isolation that seeps in while seeking work, as well as with having work. We are so focused on the task at hand we miss out on what comes next, or what we never knew was out there. I see it in myself when I am working on a project for a client. My calendar pops up and there is that networking event scheduled for the next day. It would be much simpler to skip the event and just keep working on the task. The project isn’t due tomorrow, mind you, but if I go I have to get dressed up and talk to a bunch of people and be…present. Seems like a lot of work when I can just stay comfortably here in front of my computer. It doesn’t care if my shoes aren’t shined or my hair isn’t perfect.
What’s wrong with this picture? First of all I am making a lot of assumptions. I assume I will not get much out of the event. I assume people will judge me. I assume I will get great work done if I go nonstop without time for my brain to rest and change gears. The list goes on and on.
So why is it a good practice to put down the cell phone, put the cap on the pen, and log off the laptop?
1. Taking breaks makes you more productive and circumvents burnout.
An article in the Harvard Business Review discusses “our limited capacity for concentrating over extended time periods.” Being a go-getter is great as long as you take a break from it, otherwise you are on track to derail your progress. Sleep researchers have found that the optimum work block is only 90 minutes long. The article goes on to say, “that sporadic breaks replenish our energy, improve self-control and decision-making, and fuel productivity.” So, boost your efficiency by scheduling in that workshop you hesitated to make time for, or attend the mastermind cohort you have been meaning to join (or simply take a walk with a co-worker).
2. Your best thinking happens in both the focused and diffuse modes.
When you remain endlessly on your computer or concentrating on that document, you are focused on a task (focused thinking). The longer you stick with it you can become bored, confused, or simply stuck in the same idea rut. Authors refer to this as writers block. When you set that work aside for a while you allow your brain to problem solve without you, and you are open to new perspectives that have been blocked by your concentrated efforts. You are distracted, and at the same time you see more of the big picture (diffuse mode of thinking).
3. Being face-to-face with other people gives you a number of bonuses.
Allowing a little more ‘human time’ can:
Build your confidence
Develop new business connections
Share common challenges
Increase your circle of influence
Create new communities of support
Uncover new resources and events
And more often than not, you will benefit by just finding someone to laugh with.
Putting yourself out there can take some effort, but the rewards are worth it. You and your brain need some company. So let go of the guilt that can come with taking time for something new. See you out there!