When you’re just trying to get your business off the ground, having fun isn’t always a top priority. You’re more focused on your business plan, go-to-market strategy, financials, and—perhaps most importantly—time management. But your business will mirror your attitude, and if you are out of gas, customers will sense it.
When you add more fun to your day, research has shown you become more productive. What do I mean by more fun? When business leaders add meaningful, short breaks periodically throughout the day, they (and their team) are more productive and feel better.
Seriously! A study by the Harvard Business Review and the Energy Project found that when a supervisor encouraged team members to take regular breaks, employees were 81 percent more likely to stay with the company and had a 78 percent increase in their sense of healthiness and well-being.
If that wasn’t enough, the same study also found those who took breaks at least every 90 minutes reported a 40 percent increase in creative thinking and a 28 percent improvement in focus.
As your days get more grueling and run longer than you anticipate, it’s important to remember to have fun. Not just so that you feel better, but also to help you stay on task and do more. By taking regular breaks, you are making your business stronger.
3 ways to have more fun (and be more productive)
Now that you know why you should take meaningful, fun breaks (or as I like to call them, an “oasis”) it’s time to take action. Here are three tips to get you started on your path to fun at work and being more productive.
1. Discover your fun
As adults, too many of us have forgotten how to enjoy ourselves. This may ring more true for people just starting out their own business since you’re knee-deep in responsibilities.
To discover what you want to do for your fun break, return to the wisdom from the mouths of babes (with some caveats, of course).
One of the most wonderful characteristics children have is the wondrous ways they view the world. They discover fun and play wherever they are, regardless of the resources they have available.
Now it’s time to make a list! I call this an “oasis list”―the simplicity of a playlist with the joy of a bucket list, but with zero guilt, little pressure, and little cost in terms of either time or money. These are things that bring a little fun, joy, relaxation, and recharging to your day.
Your oasis list can be categorized by the amount of time involved with each activity―under 15 minutes, 15 to 30 minutes, over 30 minutes, and so on. Get started by writing down all the things you enjoy, whether it’s taking a short walk outside, eating a sweet treat, playing video games, finding a quiet place to meditate, reading a few chapters of a book, listening to an audiobook, an so on.
An “oasis” represents a moment that you create. It sums up what you would describe as a meaningful break. These will be the items that you can come back to when you are ready for an oasis.
2. Schedule your breaks
Next, it is time to establish a pattern of taking your oasis. Regardless of what may be happening with work, your oases (plural of oasis!) come first.
That means they should be on your schedule as a top-priority. An oasis isn’t what happens at the end of the day; it’s a critical part of the workday. Start with scheduling micro-oases of 10 to 20 minutes each multiple times per day and choose an activity from your oasis list that fits into that time frame. Then work up to scheduling a longer break of 60 to 90 minutes that might afford you a trip to the gym, a yoga class, or other physical activity.
You’ll know what time of the day to schedule it because of your ultradian rhythm. This is your work “body-clock.” Discovered by sleep researcher Nathan Kleitman, it’s a “basic rest-activity cycle.” Ultradian rhythms are shorter, recurrent patterns in our circadian day.
Each one of us has an optimal cycle for how long they can work before needing a break. Just as each person has unique nightly sleep needs, a person’s work break needs to occur every 90 to 120 minutes.
How will you know yours? Experimentation, of course! Break at various time periods for a week and see what seems to work best for you. Once you’ve discovered your perfect rhythm, make multiple recurring appointments on your calendar each and every day.
I gave this advice to one of my CEO clients; right after lunch every day, she scheduled a brief oasis to visit a special friend.
In her calendar, she created a recurring event called “Take a walk to visit my friend Bessie the cow.” Her oasis was to leave her office, walk up the hill to a local pasture, pet the cow on the nose, and then head back to work. It’s exactly what she needed to get, ahem, moo-tivated.
3. Take a vacation
According to Time Off’s 2016 report, nearly 55 percent of all Americans fail to use up all of their vacation time. This resulted in an estimated record-setting 658 million vacation days wasted that year.
The funny thing is, that same study found that employees who take ten or fewer days of vacation time are less likely to have received a raise or bonus in the last three years than those who took eleven days or more.
In case that isn’t obvious enough, forgive me as I make it perfectly clear: When you take less vacation, you earn less money. When you take more vacation, you pave the pathway to success.
At this point you may be saying to yourself: Who has the time or the money when you are starting a new business to take a vacation? Some people will think in terms of an annual vacation. That’s fine, just don’t limit yourself. It doesn’t have to be a week-long trip to Tahiti. It could be as simple as a weekend of fishing and camping at your local lake. It might be an affordable, decent-sized purchase for a stay-cation, like a refurbished Xbox or movie projector.
Look several months out on your calendar and schedule that vacation. You’ve earned it and you need it. The downtime will help you rejuvenate your mind and body.
Day-to-day life has a way of intruding on our happiness. We can get caught up in work or other pressures, then the things we’d rather be doing—the things that truly make us happy—get pushed aside. Remember those and take the time each day for yourself to do the things you enjoy and have fun!
Dave Crenshaw is the master of building productive leaders and has transformed hundreds of thousands of business leaders worldwide. He has appeared in TIME magazine, USA Today, FastCompany, and the BBC News. His courses on LinkedIn Learning have received millions of views.
He has written three books and counting, including The Myth of Multitasking, which was published in six languages and is a time-management bestseller. His fourth book, The Power of Having Fun, releases September 19th. Learn more about Dave at DaveCrenshaw.com.