Time Out – Make Sure You Do

TO many people, time out is the name of a magazine, or perhaps a break taken by players in sports such as ice hockey and basketball. It is not something business people would contemplate taking, even though a leading figure in his field believes relaxing for just a tiny percentage of your day would enhance your own wellbeing and improve performance.

So says Charles Helliwell, a behavioural analyst & mentor, and founder and publisher of Business Personality Audits (www.bpaudits.co.uk) who is willing to share the benefits of taking a short time to gather your thoughts and relax during the working day.

An avid follower of David Taylor and the Naked Leader concept, he has written a piece entitled, The Most Important 15 minutes Of Your Life. ‘Taking just 15 minutes out of your day for contemplation reinvigorates the soul and regenerates enthusiasm and energy,’ he says. ‘It’s the blink of an eye in a long day’s work, and a lifetime when it’s yours to do with as you will.’

The expression ‘less is more’ does not sit comfortably in the business world. There is simply too much to do. And yet those who are not allowing time for themselves could ultimately be doing more while achieving less, because they end up too stressed. So, how can you possibly work less and achieve greater productivity?

Charles begins: ‘One of the most obvious and noticeable observations on returning home after a break, is the frenetic pace of life most people lead.

‘This is never more so apparent than in the workplace. No one seems to have any time any more to stop and think. Everyone gives the impression of moving at breakneck speed just to keep up – or in some cases, just to stand still.’

And he adds: ‘Perhaps this is why I’ve been having rather too many conversations of late with stressed and burnt-out professionals who just can’t see the wood for the trees. Whether it’s a case of not enough hours in the day, or just too much to do, the theme and the sentiment are often one and the same.’

‘So, just imagine the reaction when I suggest to them that the solution to their dilemma is to take 15 minutes each day for themselves. Fifteen minutes a day. That’s a massive 900 seconds.

‘The average individual, if asked, will be able to hold their breath for approximately 30 seconds at a time; and that often will feel like a lifetime to them, as they gasp and struggle for air afterwards. Now imagine repeating the same exercise 30 times consecutively. It’s almost inconceivable.

‘And yet, the predictable responses from those I’ve asked to take 15 minutes of contemplative time each day have ranged from the ridiculous to the absurd. Now consider for a moment what 15 minutes a day actually represents.’

The percentages don’t lie and Charles reckons: ‘Given an average day (and no one works an average day these days), of eight hours, that’s a whopping 480 minutes.

‘Fifteen minutes only represents a lowly 3.125% of the working day. An office survey conducted by Microsoft in 2005 for the Leading Edge Alliance found that workers spent an average of 5.6 hours a week in meetings.

‘And from the same sample, seven out of 10 felt that these meetings were mostly unproductive. So, how do these same people rationalise spending 336 minutes a week of relatively unproductive time in meetings, versus 75 minutes of valuable and productive re-charge time, on themselves?

‘The simple answer is that they can’t, so they don’t. Even though employment legislation requires individuals to take a lunch break, many choose not to, simply because of the pressure of their work.

‘So it’s a real struggle to persuade people to set aside 15 minutes of downtime for themselves. This downtime, or ‘self time’, as I call it, is just not considered important enough by most, as they absorb themselves in their tasks of the day.

‘However, 15 minutes of time dedicated exclusively to oneself is surprisingly refreshing and relaxing. It is in essence, a quarter-of-an-hour of meditation within the maelstrom of the work environment.’

Deciding what to do with that time is your choice and Charles concludes: ‘It can be listening to an i-pod, reading a book, going for a walk or simply daydreaming and staring out of a window.

‘Choosing what to do with one’s 15 minutes each day becomes an ever increasing and enjoyable challenge. One which, with practice, becomes as anticipated and valued as the completion of tasks and assignments which preoccupy most of the working day.’

Thanks for those interesting thoughts, Charles. So, it’s over to you. For the good of yours and your company’s health, why don’t you get busy? Get busy doing nothing, that is.


  • Louise

    I think probably everyone will think they know this but we need to actually do this and do ti regulalry and believe it is really important and will benefit our whole being iin the long term. I have just spent 1/2 hour this morning when I was going to come into work early enjoying seeing the baby blutits take their first flights out ot the nexting box. and absolute marvel. wildlife is a great formof relaxation to me.

  • mark

    Wildlife is a wonderful way of relaxing I agree. I love to watch the birds in our garden, I often throw out some bread for them and wonder at the way they are always there, looking to swoop in and collect their day's food. I work at home sometimes and am able to give myself a half hour of reading time, or wildlfe watching time and it is a great source of enjoyment for me too. i guess we are living proof that people do take time out, if only others realised the benefits as it certainly makes me feel a whole lot better.

  • paul

    The best way to relax is just to day dream in my case as it helps me just forget everything. I dream of things and places I'd like to share with others such as special holiday destinations and it helps me to refocus once I come out of the state of being on the jobs I have in mind.I have a special place in Majorca, a small beach near Caan Picafort in the north of the island that I adore. I can transport myself there and be there for several minutes without once wondering where I actually am. It is almost like being in a state of perpetual hypnotism but it is so good for me and works every time. Maybe others have got a place where they can focus like that.

  • mary

    I used to resent being in the office if I hadn't taken a lunch. We always felt like we had to stay in and do more so that the boss thought you were working hard but in real terms it was a case of you had to get the work done so you rarely had time to go out. Just a 15 minute walk made the difference for me. At least I got out and relaxed just for a few minutes if only to know the bosses didn't have that much of a hold on me and I could do my own thing.

  • chris

    ‘This is never more so apparent than in the workplace. No one seems to have any time any more to stop and think. Everyone gives the impression of moving at breakneck speed just to keep up – or in some cases, just to stand still.’Too true Charles. everyone is running around in circles as fast as they can and not getting anywhere in a lot of cases. It's rather like a hamster on a treadmill. Everyone thinks they have to get on it and go as fast and as far as possible. Sometimes, take yourself off the treadmill and stand and look. I've done that in recent months and it's made such a difference to hos I view life. I can appreciate things a lot more now as I have time to think. And I don't think my work has suffered because of it, not in the slightest. In fact I am judged more with care at work now. They know I am not on life's treadmill 24-7 and I'm able to make better judgments because of it. Ultimately, that can only help the business as I am making those juddment calls for the firm. that can only be a good thing.

  • paul

    Did just that today.1. Went to a room where I knew I wasn't going to be disturbed.2. Set the alarm on my phone.3. Had a sort of time for yoga and reflection for 10 minutes.4. Dozed for the remaining 5 minutes.It was lovely actually. Got away from it all and day dreamed. then back to work feeling so much better.

  • Onravenswings

    I think that people who think there is no time in the day are those people who do not know what is important use of their time. If we consider that in the modern office email is the biggest waste of time ever invented.True communication is important but mindless reading irrelevant mail not even directed at us will waste perhaps 60% of our time.My policy would involve directing mail specifically to those that the question or request is aimed at. I turn my mail off and check things in the morning after lunch and at the close of play.15 minutes spent assessing the top priority issue and the rest of your time completing this and moving on to number 2 is my focus.15 minutes for your self equates to that tune you cant remember. No mater how hard you try you cant recall it. let it go and your subconscious will work on the problem until you get that unexpected eureka moment problem solved. All too often the insecure wants to achieve so hard their perception of looking busy all day will impress when in reality focusing your energy on one achievement rather than fighting fires achieves results by which we are judged in the long run. If you can achieve one significant task every day it will elevate not only your own self esteem but your position in the company as an achiever. Being achiever will significantly reduce your stress levels as you become valued work becomes less of a task and more of a challenge further increasing your ability to function under pressure.That 15 minutes may just be the most valuable in your life.Caution some bosses may see your 15 minutes you time as indolence if they do not comprehend your purpose be ware position dose not give you a suigeneris on intelligence.

  • Mark

    Thanks for highlighting the important use of time. Some people, as you say, don't realise that they will feel much better if they do take time out every now and again.

  • Jason

    You can spend time in many ways but if you don't relax for a while you can burn out. A business mind has to be a sharp mind and just going at it full tilt without allowing your body to recover is a dangerous way to spend your life. And will probably bring on your death a lot sooner. fact.

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