Raise your hand if this sounds like you: you wake up tired at an ungodly hour. Still half asleep, you check emails before your feet hit the ground. You grab something half-nutritious and chase it with coffee on your commute to work. With no time to spare between meetings, you scarf down lunch at your desk. You can’t possibly keep up with all the emails streaming in, so you feel compelled to keep checking your inbox hours after you leave work. Sound familiar?
I kept up this pace for years, until my health was compromised and my work suffered as a result. When I started my own company, I quickly fell back into this mode – anxious, sleepless and overwhelmed with my to-do list.
Then I read a quote that hit me like a Mack truck.
So I took a vacation.
Stepping away from work for a week gave me the distance I needed to reflect on what I refer to as “spa wisdom” – the mental, physical and spiritual self-care that keeps me in balance. I spent time on the ocean, in the mountains, practicing yoga and consciously daydreaming about what I wanted to CREATE, not what I had to DO.
I returned restored, with greater perspective and creative ideas that improved the quality of my work. I realized that cultivating spa wisdom is a critical tool for running a successful business. Here are 3 key takeaways from my weeklong getaway.
Spa Wisdom to Improve Energy, Productivity and Creativity in your Work
1. Listen to your body.
Research shows that “strategic renewal” – more sleep, mid-day exercise, less time at the office and more frequent vacations – leads to greater productivity, increased job satisfaction and improved health. Human beings aren’t automatons. We can’t simply expend energy ad infinitum. Our bodies regularly tell us to take a break, but we often override these signals and instead stoke ourselves up with caffeine, sugar and our own emergency reserves — the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. This inevitably leads to loss of sufficient sleep, which leads to burnout, and our job performance suffers. By doing less, we can achieve more over the long haul.
2. Book yourself in 90 minute sessions.
Like a massage therapist who schedules herself in 90-minute windows with a 30-minute recovery break, it turns out that working in 90-minute intervals also maximizes productivity. Research led by Professor K Anders Ericsson at Florida State University shows elite performers, including musicians, athletes, actors and chess players typically practice in uninterrupted sessions that last no more than 90 minutes. They begin in the morning, take a break between sessions, and rarely work for more than four and a half hours in any given day.
“To maximize gains from long-term practice,” Dr. Ericsson concluded, “individuals must avoid exhaustion and must limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis.”
Try scheduling your day in 90-minute sprints, with 20-30 minute recovery periods in between. Take a walk, stretch, refuel. Chances are you’ll return with more energy and focus.
3. Zone out.
I’m not referring to meditation, which is a life-changing practice in it’s own right. I’m talking about daydreaming; letting your mind drift off to la la land. Studies suggest that when a mind wanders, it stumbles off the beaten path and into more creative territory. Here, it is more likely to arrive at less likely solutions to problems that confound a focused mind.
Often, we try to rush creativity. We have deadlines to meet and bosses to impress. But when we cram creativity into our truncated timelines, and top it off with a dose of performance anxiety, the outcome is usually unoriginal fluff. As my old boss used to say, “garbage in, garbage out.”
When we give our mind permission to daydream, even for 15 minutes, we allow it to reset, and we can come back to the task at hand with a fresh perspective.
Even if you can’t get to the spa or take a proper vacation at a moment’s notice, you can give your body and mind the break they need.