Take A Break To Plan The Next Project

I was working on the last blog post this afternoon, and after finishing it I decided I needed a break before I started working on my developing site. But I still felt a little motivated, and didn’t want to lose that feeling, so I decided to do a fast clean of my bathroom. (I’ve found my productiviy wanes considerably in the afternoon.) I got out the supplies and started working.

You know what I found after 10 minutes of cleaning? Even though I was working and getting other things done, the mindless labor helped me to focus on the project ahead. I was able to clarify what I needed to work on, and visualized what it would take for each action step I needed done today. The bathroom cleaning helped me get my mind working on the next project, while doing something else.

This goes along with the wandering mind principle, but my brain really wasn’t wandering. I was focusing it on the upcoming task I had laid out in front of me. So here’s the tip: Shift gears between projects and do something completely unrelated and easy for about 10 minutes. This will let your mind sort through what needs to be done next in your projects, and give you a change of scenery.

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  • glen August 15, 2006, 10:02 am

    Thanks for the comments guys!

    Jonathan:
    Thanks for the kind words. I would have to agree with you. Even just mixing up the types of work (ie development to blogging) is breath of fresh air for my own work.

    James:
    I doubt they would. Would you mind if they started doing your deskbound jobs, just for a little bit? :)

    Mark:
    Exactly. The actual physical task of scrubbing something, or handling something really makes the difference for me. Also, I have a hard time of trying to work too long on something. There is a fine line for me between focused and productive and sort-of-focused and kinda productive. Taking a break between those different parts helps energize and refocus quite a bit.

  • Mark McGuinness August 15, 2006, 5:10 am

    I definitely recognise that experience, I also think it’s significant that you switched to a physical activity during your break – doing something tactile, handling real objects and reconnecting with your body seems to reactivate lots of mental circuits. A workout is an obvious example, but doing something mundane like making a cup of tea, washing the dishes or walking to the corner shop for a bottle of milk helps to re-energise me and recharge my creativity during a day at the laptop.

    The trick is remembering to take the break instead of trying to force yourself to persevere with a mental task when your energy dips – “Put the laptop DOWN! move AWAY from the desk!…” :-)

  • James August 15, 2006, 3:02 am

    By Friday afternoon my poor brain is ready to drop after a week of concentration and problem solving. For me, the weekend is a great time to get my teeth into some manual labour around the house and garden. When Monday morning rolls round my brain really feels refreshed and ready to go.

    You make a really good point about the benefit of being able to give you brain a break during the course of a normal working day. Do you think the office cleaners would mind if the desk-bound among us started cleaning the bathrooms during the day?

  • Jonathan August 14, 2006, 3:16 pm

    Hey great blog you have going. Looks like it’s gonna be a hit.

    I’d have to agree with you here. I think this relates to anything where a creative mind is needed. Besides blogging I also design logos.

    Doing to many at once often leaves my brain in an uncreative frame of mind. If I take a break, leave the computer, I often come back with better ideas.