How to take a break

Have you ever taken a break at work and realized that you’re not actually enjoying yourself? You might be surfing the web or checking your email, but really you’re just looking around for something interesting.

The Problem: When your break is over, you don’t feel refreshed.

The Secret: A break isn’t “not working” for awhile, it’s letting go of work. Ideally you want forget about work completely, but still remember to come back.  Tricky.

The Solution: Use a timer to keep track of time. A portable one is ideal because you can take it with you when you stand up and walk out of your office!  That’s right. No more breaks sitting in front of your computer.

How It Works: You can’t relax or have fun when you’re watching the clock. In fact, we often associate fun with “losing track of time.”

Let the timer worry about time, you go out and have some fun.

Break Ideas:

Walk once around the block.
Do 10 pushups.
Take a shower.
Put on some music. Dance. Sing.
Go outside and take a few deep breaths.
Take a 5 minute mini-nap.
Play a video game (off the computer.)
Go find your dog or cat. Pet it.
Meditate. Be the rock.
Drink a tall glass of water.
Refill your coffee or tea, if that’s your style.
Play with your kids.
Attack a punching bag. Hiyyyya!
Do some simple exercises.
Drink some fresh juice.
Go for a bike ride.
Make yourself a smoothie.
Do some yoga.
Read a book.

Happiness with a Messy Desk

With everything going on at work, we often spend our time working in a physical state of ‘constant mess’, which affects our effectiveness and even our ability to think.

I’ve been trying this next tip for about 2 months to create a little “Island of Zen” to my work space.  It’s working…

The Challenge: It’s hard to think when your work space is messy.

The Solution: Mark off a “Clean Zone” on your desk that you’ll keep clean and empty at all times.

The Secret: Your desk may always be messy. That’s ok. If you can keep part of it 100% clean you’ll feel less overwhelmed at work, and it’ll be easier to handle everything else.

How It Works:

1. Mark off this area physically – it has to have edges you can see.

2. One Rule: No matter how messy your office gets, nothing goes here unless you’re actually working on it.

3. When you notice that your clean zone has disappeared from sight (it happens), simply clear away the mess until you can see the borders again.

Here’s a picture of my desk:

1. Inbox.  An easy way to get started or back on track – you can just throw everything in your inbox.

2. Printouts of shortcuts I commonly need to look up for software I use (Gmail, Adding events to iCal, RememberTheMilk)

3. Folders for major projects

4. Happiest day of my life!

5. 27′ iMac.

6. My office was the master bedroom of our house, this lets me work with headphones (so I can listen to music while ankle biters are sleeping) and still know if someone comes into the room. No sneaking up on me!

7. Top 3 priorities for the day (from “The 3-minute Plan“), clipped onto the monitor.

8. Sawhorses from — this is a standing desk, described on my personal blog here.

Ok, let’s have a little fun with this one!

Spend 5 minutes making your Clean Zone, take a picture and send it in here.  No need to clean up anything else, that’s the whole point.

I’ll add them to this post, and we’ll have examples of Clean Zones from around the world.

Have fun!

Clean Zones from Around the World:

Andrea in Missouri.

Ben in Washington, DC.

Shannon from Houston, TX: I suffer with a messy desk - I can find everything I need (most of the time). I am going to try keeping my "Clean Zone" to see if it works for me.

Scott’s DFZ (Distraction Free Zone) in Stow, MA

Evgenya in Washington DC: Thanks Aaron for the great tips!

Thanks for the pics guys!

Send us a picture of your Clean Zone!

Perspective on life…

How to let go of work and fully relax

The Problem: You never relax fully if work is always on your mind.

The Solution: Separate work from the rest of your life by choosing a period of time and declaring, “No work allowed!”  A great place to start is not checking your work email when you’re not at work.

If an entire evening or weekend is too much, start small. For example, you might decide that you won’t touch work between 7pm and 8pm. (You can always expand your time off when the world doesn’t end.)
The Secret: Turn off work physically. Shut down your computer, leave your cellphone in a drawer and close the door to your office. This sends a signal to you and everyone else that you’ve checked out of work.

Take a deep breath, lower your shoulders, smile and go have fun.

Personally I leave my laptop and cell phone upstairs when I come down after work. By making it harder to sneak a peek at my inbox, I’m thinking about work less and I’m more relaxed. This little tip has made me (and my family!) happier, so I hope you’ll try it.

Worry Folder

I ran across this next idea a few years ago. It’s made a big
difference for me so I wanted to share it with you.

The Problem: You’re worrying about so many things, it’s hard to work or sleep.

The Tip: Write the word ‘WORRIES’ on a folder in big bold letters.
Using index cards or paper, write down anything that’s bothering you and put it in the folder. When you can’t think of anything else, take a big deep breath and see how you feel.

The Secret: Your conscious mind knows there’s no point in worrying about things you can’t control. Your subconscious mind doesn’t work that way, and it’s trying to help you remember everything when it keeps you up at night yelling, “Hey! Why aren’t you working on all these really important things right now?”

How It Works: Writing things down lets your subconscious mind relax because your worries aren’t only in your head, they’re also ‘safely’ in that folder there.

It sounds a little strange.. but it works!