When the Emerald Street emails go out each day, the team like to picture you guys stopping for a few minutes, possibly with a cup of tea, or taking a Low-Calorie-Carbonated-Beverage Break (we have no brand loyalty). It’s a happy thought, thinking about you all taking a few minutes for yourselves. But we also hear people say things like “well, it’s not so bad because the rest of my office have stopped too”, “I know it’s a bit of skive, but it doesn’t take long”. And the killer: “I feel a bit guilty because I’m on work time…”
Stop it. Stop feeling the guilt and stop work; nothing will fall apart in five minutes.
“It’s a collective delusion, the idea that we are more effective if we keep working,” says Arianna Huffington. As the founder of the Huffington Post, the online news portal now publishing editions in 10 different countries, Huffington is a woman who knows something about success and effective work. “Breaks are essential for our productivity, our mental health, our happiness. Look at athletes. They are just about winning. Every little thing they do can make a difference as to whether they win or lose. And athletes prioritise sleep, meditation, renewal breaks and naps and they have seen the results.”
Huffington is currently preaching the gospel of breaks and mindfulness. Of stopping. Her current book, Thrive, argues for a new definition of success, one that isn’t just about fame, fortune and power. We all need to start to focus on our health, on our ability to make wise choices, on giving and on reconnecting with the world and allowing our sense of wonder back into our busy digitised lives. “Our culture has perpetuated this delusion that burnout is the way to success, that breaks are basically for lazy people. That isn’t something that stands up when you look at any research. These tiny little breaks in the day, think about how much energy they give back. Everybody has five minutes.”
Can you live in the moment? Pause your reading right now and focus on your breathing for just one minute. Count to 60 if it helps…
Did you manage it? Or were you fuzzy with thoughts of an email you need to reply to, or tuned into a conversation on the other side of the room? Let’s be fair, your workplace probably isn’t the easiest place to zone out from, but it does illustrate how hard we find it to be still, even for a short amount of time. There are other small changes. If you need more sleep, then prioritising going to bed an extra 40 minutes earlier will have a much bigger impact on the following day than choosing to stay awake as Netflix autoplays the next episode. There’s also your attitude to the world around you. “You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you can control your responses to them,” says Huffington. “That could be as easy as changing how you view the rain. Rain can put us in a bad mood, it makes us cold and makes our hair frizz, but the last time I was in Munich, it was pouring with rain and it made the city look magical and glistening.”
But you will know what’s best for you. “Nobody should listen to anyone but themselves, ultimately. As women, we get so many signals, so many messages, thrown at us all the time. You must decide what’s best for you. Instead of feeling guilty you should be feeling incredibly smart and wise.”