October 29, 2019
When do you switch off?
It can be easy to constantly go go go in today’s age, especially for students and type A’s (and Type A students especially), but there are unique benefits from scheduled downtime. Perhaps you’re worried that your to do list will become unmanageable if you take time off or believe that putting in lots of hours is the only way to get anything done.
Fortunately, you can have your breaks and still get a lot done! A ‘switch-off’ time can improve your productivity and help you stay sane and healthy. It is, as the name implies, when you switch off, stop doing work, perhaps even turning your notifications on silent for a period.
When is your switch off time?
This can be the same time every day, or a different one for each day of the week. Be as flexible as you want here, it’s all about optimizing YOUR schedule.
Is it from 7pm until tomorrow morning, or a few 30 minute blocks throughout the day? You decide.
Stick to it
A key thing here is to ensure you stick to this switch off time. If you say you’re going to finish at 7pm every night, but keep going to 10pm this isn’t going to work. I get it, there are going to be times when you need to disregard this time and that’s fine, as long as it’s the exception and not the rule.
Know your why
It can help to have a reason for your switch off time to ensure you stick with it. What would you like to do after your homework? Perhaps its catching up with a friend, painting, going for a walk, playing guitar or even reading for leisure.
Still not convinced you should take a break? Let’s look at some benefits.
Parkinson’s Law states that a task will take as long as you allow it to.
If you give yourself 2 days to complete something that takes 2 hours, it’ll tend to take you 2 days to do. This may be through you not being as efficient with your time working, distracting yourself with social media or making the task more difficult than it actually is. Obviously, there are some limitations here, you’ll need to be realistic. Don’t give yourself 5 minutes for something that requires a couple of hours.
After planning your switch off time, look at the tasks you’re planning on doing and the time you have available, then ask yourself how long you think each task should take if you were to work effectively, without distractions. Do your best to finish the tasks in the allotted time. Setting an accurate time is going to take some practise.
By having a switch off time every day, you’re potentially decreasing the time it takes to complete your tasks using Parkinson’s Law.
My experience with Parkinson’s Law
In 2013 I got a job tutoring Economics at the University of Melbourne. As a first-time tutor there was a bit of a learning curve with structuring classes. I would take the whole week to prepare for the class. It didn’t make sense that it should take that long, I knew all the content already.
Then I read an article on Parkinson’s Law and it clicked. It was taking a week because I was allowing it to take a week. I experimented with setting aside one day to do all my preparation. And guess what, it all got done. After I’d broken through this mental barrier, I ended up decreasing this time even further.
Your health will thank you for it
By having a switch off time you’re allowing your body to transition into the parasympathetic nervous system state which is where you build yourself back up, recovering from the stresses of the day.
If you’re constantly working, or fretting about how much work you have to do you won’t be able to properly access this state and you will probably find yourself getting sicker than your classmates and not being as cognitively sharp.
On top of this, you’ll feel much better mentally. Think of a time when you’ve had an intense, prolonged period of work. It was go go go all day for a few days in a row. How did you feel during it? Stressed out, anxious, worried? By taking time out every day, you’re preventing this stress from building up day to day, making you more capable of handling those crazy weeks.
Work smarter not harder. It can seem counterproductive, having more breaks to get more done, but thinking about it, it makes sense. Think about how well you get tasks done at the end of a long day vs when you feel fresh and well rested. We’ve all been at that point where the simplest of tasks takes way too long.
By giving yourself these breaks, you’re allowing your brain the time to recover and stay sharp for the time you are working.
I hope this has motivated you to re-evaluate your work life balance. Remember, have a reason for your switch off time, set the time and stick to it as best you can. Work hard when you need to, but prioritise working smarter first.
What will you choose to do with this time?
Written by Stefan Filippo