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.