Sometimes, we are asked about the logic of taking time out of our team's busy schedules to recharge. Is it really beneficial to start meetings with a minute of silence--isn't it more productive just to dive right in? And wouldn't everyone be more effective if we skipped the 15-minute weekly recharge sessions and just finished up that last email, bit of code or sales call? And is it really worth taking two full days of valuable time to teach everyone the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People rather than doing what they are paid to do?
In our experience, the answer to all those questions is yes. Yes, meetings go more smoothly when we begin with a minute of silence. Yes, the afternoon goes better when we take time to do a body scan and release pent-up tension during our weekly recharge sessions. And yes, it's definitely worth taking the time to train everyone in the office to follow the seven habits.
It occurs to me that the reason for this success lies in the seventh habit: sharpening the saw. The common paradigm in the one in which we tell ourselves that we are just too busy to take time for ourselves. And we sometimes wear busy as a badge of honor, as if we were somehow lazy if we did have enough time to take a little to recharge! Have you ever been to social gatherings where people compete to convince everyone else that their schedule is the absolute busiest? It's as if we are expecting some sort of prize for being the Busiest Person of the Year, when really the prize tends to be headaches, poor sleep and a lack of satisfaction with one's life. That's not a prize I want to win!
In an article for the Harvard Business Review wondrously entitled Please Stop Complaining About How Busy You Are, Meredith Fineman takes a no-holds-barred approach to the macho glow of busyness, pointing out that studies show that if you're not taking breaks during the day, your productivity is likely decreased:
Just because you clocked 15 hours at your office, with likely dry eyeballs and a complete lack of focus, doesn’t mean you’ve accomplished things in a smart way. Many people have written or spoken about this. Typically, you have 90-120 minutes before you devolve into internet fodder or social media. If you’re putting in 15 straight hours at your desk, without breaks, how good is your output? How much time are you wasting?
The more effective paradigm is to tell oneself, "I take time for myself every day because it gives me the ability to do everything else." If we believe that the greatest asset we have in this life is ourselves, we can not only justify taking time for renewal and recharging; we can insist upon it. It's about balance. It's about yin and yang.
And we have discovered this in our offices as well. Sure, people still get stressed, and we still have tough deadlines to meet. But I believe that it's important to encourage everyone, from the CEO to the janitor, to take time to be mindful and recharge.