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Take Micro-vacations to Boost Focus

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Feel overwhelmed yet?  Most people do.  They’re in the daily grind: wake-up, work, come home, sleep, rinse-and-repeat.  The failing economy has already hit people’s wallets and purses hard enough to limit traditional vacations, and without something to look forward to, the day-to-day hurdles can be even harder to stomach.  And of course, mood affects focus in profound ways – someone who isn’t inspired can find the flow state to be pretty elusive.  Focus requires some level of inspiration for a kick-start – without it, you can end up in a negative downward spiral for quite a while.

Tim Ferris talked about “mini-retirements” in his book, The 4-Hour WorkweekThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal covered “mini-vacations”, which are shorter but more frequent getaways to recharge.  I’m generally a fan of both concepts (although find mini-retirements to be a lot more impractical).  But taking 3-day weekends is still not something most people can do all the time to recharge their batteries.  And I really do think that focus is local.  Meaning: in order to improve your focus consistently, you need to start with a daily  habit and not a monthly, bi-monthly, or annual one.  Do something every single day to increase focus and over time, the actions will compound into a heap of focus-inducing love.

So take your 3-day weekends… but look at what you can do every single day as well.  I’ve started calling these quick recharges “micro-vacations”.

Micro-vacation (def’n): Daily activity lasting at least 15 minutes that can’t be considered “work” by any sane, rational human being; purpose of which is to recharge and increase overall focus for the next few hours

In talking with people who have trouble with focus, one thing I’ve found is that they don’t intrinsically value taking breaks.  They think it’s slacking off or being unproductive.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  In order for your prefrontal cortex to kick into focus mode, it needs to be ready – and too much work simply doesn’t work.  Just like your muscles, your brain needs time to relax before continuing to push on.

Here are some examples of micro-vacations – each one should last at least 15 minutes.  This is a very simple list and is just an indication of the types of things you could do for a micro-vacation!

  • Meditation or just sitting still
  • Short walk with no distractions
  • Reading the newspaper or a good book
  • Coffee or tea break
  • Listening to audiobooks or podcasts
  • Going for a drive
  • Taking a bath
  • Doing some yoga poses
  • Having lunch with friends or family
  • Getting a massage
  • Climbing a tree 😉

(As I’ve mentioned in the past, these types of breaks are best when you can get outside and into nature.)

Now isn’t it obvious that doing something you look forward to everyday would improve your mood and help you focus?  Of course it is.  But that doesn’t mean people are doing this often enough. Most people feel more overwhelmed and stressed than ever before.  Could this help?  Maybe.  But you have to make a conscious effort to seek out 1-2 micro-vacations every single day.

They’re not just little vacations, they’re endorphin boosters!  They’re ways to reconnect with yourself in ways that may seem trite, but do them often enough and you may find your overall mood improving.  One fun side-effect is that you may be able to get through parts of the day that would otherwise be challenging because you know you have a micro-vacation planned for later.  It’s good fun!

Written by Mike Torres

May 14th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

Posted in Productivity

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  • I like this. I’ve been doing it for a for a few years and I don’t think I even realized it, at least not as a “mini-vacation.” When I don’t make that time to refresh, productivity is hurt. Plus, who doesn’t want some vacation time! 🙂

  • I like this. I've been doing it for a for a few years and I don't think I even realized it, at least not as a “mini-vacation.” When I don't make that time to refresh, productivity is hurt. Plus, who doesn't want some vacation time! 🙂

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