When you are flooded with things to do (or decisions to make), stress levels are high and you feel like you barely have time to breathe, what is your natural response?
Head down and keep plugging away
Talk to others about how swamped you are
Write and re-write lists to remind you of what you need to do
Stop everything and jump on a paddle board
If you are like most people, your answer is probably one of the first three (or a combination thereof). After all, this is what we are conditioned to do if we want to be responsible, productive, respected and (perhaps most importantly) not viewed as a slacker.
So why, on earth, would I pick #4 when my list of work deliverables is significant AND my personal demands are equally abundant as we prepare to relocate our family to another state.
The purest and most authentic answer is, I chose to get on a paddle board because it was 90 degrees in Seattle and it was just too tempting not to get out on the water. The longer answer is, yes, I felt a strong pull to go play AND I also knew that taking a 60 minute mid-day break, comes with invaluable productivity and creativity inducing benefits.
When we get stuck and our brain is on over-load, taking a breather and changing our scenery is often the best cure to move you forward. Indulging yourself in what you might otherwise consider "procrastination" can also have beneficial lingering effects as you continue to savor and reflect on your "play" - reintroducing those positive emotions long after you are done with the activity. It's the gift that keeps on giving.
Still not convinced that taking a fun mid-day break will move you forward? Consider Barbara Fredrickson's Broaden and Build research and theory -
"Positive emotions, like love, joy, and gratitude, promote new and creative actions, ideas, and social bonds. When people experience positive emotions, their minds broaden and they open up to new possibilities and ideas. At the same time, positive emotions help people build their personal well-being resources, ranging from physical resources, to intellectual resources, and social resources" (Fredrickson 2009).
The next time you are flooded with things to do, stress levels are high and positive emotions are low to non-existent, it might just be the perfect time to do something fun and start broadening and building. Your creativity, productivity, work and general well-being depends on it!