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Take a Breather: Give Yourself a Mental Break for Optimal Productivity

- November 20, 2015 - 2 Comments

Working in sales often seems like a race to the finish. Longer hours can mean the difference between winning and losing the deal.  But those long hours often reach a point of diminishing returns. Have you ever considered the opportunity costs of working too hard? Is it possible that meeting your sales goal may require working LESS hours?

There are vast amounts of research available showing that we all have a limited amount of mental resources to leverage. So when we are constantly exhausting those resources, we are not as productive as we can be. The brain, just like a muscle, gets fatigued after too much time on the job. If you overwork your muscles without a break, you will eventually cause damage. The same is true of your brain. Burning up mental resources without replenishing leads to stress, burnout and poor performance. It becomes difficult to think creatively, solve problems, maintain emotional stability and have the persistence needed to complete required tasks. So just like taking a breather after an hour of Zumba or basketball, our brains need a break from work as well.

According to one study by Entrepreneur, the point of mental exhaustion occurs within three hours. But many scientists say our brains need a break after just 90 minutes. And there are large bodies of work showing that people who take regular mental breaks have higher levels of productivity than those who don’t.

Here are some tips to maintain your peak mental performance:

  1. Take short breaks during the day. Every 45-90 minutes pause to take a walk to the restroom, do some stretches at your desk, grab a coffee or simply doodle on some paper. The optimal break schedule for the time-pressed person is one six minute break every 80 minutes, according to Healthdecide.com. These little breaks will help refresh your mind and give you the added energy you need to focus. But make sure you step away from the “screen”. Taking breaks to scroll your Facebook site or shop online doesn’t reap the same benefits.
  2. Take more frequent vacations. A 2014 Oxford Economics Assessment of Paid Time Off in the U.S. showed 42% of employees with paid time off finished the year with unused days, leaving an average of 8.1 days unused. But more people might take those unused vacation days if they realized that those who take vacations tend to enjoy both mental and physical benefits: less stress, less risk for heart disease, decreased depression rates, and more motivation to achieve goals. Bottom line, healthier employees are happier and more engaged. And the anticipation of an upcoming vacation can boost positivity for up to eight weeks prior to the trip, according to a 2010 study in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life.
  3. Consider taking a mid-afternoon nap. Naps can enhance performance, restore alertness, and reduce mistakes and accidents. A study at NASA on sleepy military pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved performance by 34% and alertness 100%. (Many companies have started making “Nap rooms” available to employees for this very reason. To make the most of your nap, experts say, rest in a cool, dark room and limit your nap to 20 or 40 minutes.

The top Partner Plus partners who meet their annual sales goals get a chance to recharge when they attend the Partner Plus Winner’s Circle. These exclusive, all-expense paid trips offer partner sales reps the opportunity to travel to exotic locations, relax in the sun and enjoy networking with fellow industry peers and Cisco executives. Click here to see the list of all the FY15 Winner’s Circle winners.

So the next time you are tempted to work into the wee hours of the night, eat lunch at your desk, or put off your vacation, remember that you have much more to gain by taking that much needed break. Not only will you feel more refreshed but your productivity will increase as well.

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2 Comments

    Couldn't agree more ... a few times a week I go for a run at lunchtime. I don't think it's a co-incidence these are my most productive and less stressed days.

    • Stephen, couldn't agree more with your choice of mental break. Not only do you give your mind a chance to recharge, but you give your body a workout at the same time when you take a jog at lunch. Good selling!

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