Break time ☕ | Issue #6
How to keep up with your to-do’s without burning out
If you're always struggling to fit your life into 24 hours, then the shortest month of the year is probably one of your worst nightmares.
how to do more without burning out (spoilers: breaks)
why all breaks are not equal
the planning activity to fit more rest into your busy schedule.
🧘 Focus Pose
A short stretch and movement session is always an excellent idea for a break. It's not only beneficial for your body but also great for resetting your brain.
If you're bound to a chair all day long, Standing Pigeon is a true antidote. It stretches and strengthens the hips as well as mobilizes knees and ankles so you could sit, walk, and stand without pain.
The best part? You don't need a mat, and you can do it anywhere without catching funny looks.
Prep & How-To:
Step 1. Mountain
Start in the standing position, big toes touching and heels slightly apart, arms alongside your body. You can also place your feet hip-distance apart.
Lift up your toes, put them down. Lift the balls of the feet. Rock back and forth to find the balance and distribute the weight evenly into four corners of the feet.
Engage your legs, lift up the kneecaps, and fire up quadriceps - the front of the thighs.
Keep your pelvis in a neutral position and draw your navel in. Roll your shoulder blades back from your ears. You can check your alignment by standing against the wall. Your heels, buttocks, and shoulders will touch the wall. Notice the curve in your spine and keep your head in line with the shoulders.
Lift through the crown of your spine, imagining a straight line all across your body reaching the sky.
Relax your throat, and face. Let your eyes soften. You can close your eyes if you feel stable.
Focus on your breath as you hold the pose for about three breaths.
Step 2. Chair
Inhale and raise the arms overhead with palms facing each other. Relax the shoulders, and don’t let them scrunch up.
On an exhale, start bending your knees as if you were trying to sit in the chair.
Shift the weight of your body slightly back and into your heels. Try lifting your toes. You should be able to wiggle them.
Lean slightly forward with your torso, but keep your chest open and the spine extending forward. Slide your shoulder blades down.
Keep your tailbone tucked and pointing down towards the ground. Your abs should be working, and the spine should stay long.
To get out of the pose, inhale and straighten your legs.
Step 3. Tree
From Mountain, shift your weight to your left leg.
Very slightly bend your left leg to engage the leg muscles rather than locking your knee joint.
Start to slowly lift your right foot off the floor and bring the sole on the inside of your left ankle, calf, or thigh.
It's not uncommon to see yogis using hands to help raise the foot higher onto the thigh, but ideally, you'd want to use the strength of your right leg to lift the foot up. You might not be able to raise the foot as high as you would while using your hands, but you'll feel more stable in the pose.
Keep your hips pointing forward and square. Press the right foot into the standing leg and press the standing leg into the foot.
Don't forget about your abdominal muscles. Draw your navel up and in on every exhale.
You can place your hands on the hips, in front of the chest, or lift them up - whatever helps you stay balanced.
Focus on something that's not moving and hold the pose for about 3 breaths.
Step 4. Standing Pigeon
In Mountain, place your hands on your hips or in front of your chest.
Shift your weight to your left leg and start to slowly lift your right foot off the floor and toward your chest.
Turn your right knee outward while keeping your hips pointing forward.
Flex your right foot and bring it over the left knee into a figure four position.
Bend the knee of your standing leg and send your hips back as if you're trying to sit in a chair.
To go further, lower your chest until your hands rest on your right calf.
Hold the pose for about 3 breaths.
🧠 Brain Food
You can use as many time-saving techniques to keep up with your life, but unless you allocate time for adequate rest and energy replenishment, you're doomed to end up exhausted.
So how much rest is adequate?
The people from the Draugiem Group also asked this question.
They used a desktop app to track how much time their employees spent tackling tasks and matched this time with their productivity levels. What they discovered is that when it comes to getting things done, it doesn’t matter how long you work, it’s how long and effective your rest is.
Turns out people who took frequent microbreaks were far more productive than those who worked long hours.
An ideal work-rest ratio, according to this Draugiem Group study, is 52 minutes of intensive work followed by 17 minutes of rest.
“The payoff of spending more time resting is that during the remaining [...] life, you’re more energized, more focused, more creative, and nicer to be around—not to mention a safer driver, less likely to make mistakes that will cost you later, and more likely to enjoy what you’re doing, rather than simply feeling that it’s the “right” thing to do.” - Emily and Amelia Nagoski from the book Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle.
But here’s the thing…
While most people can stay focused on work for almost an hour, it's the "rest" part that's creating real obstacles to getting the work done.
Each and every one of us has a typical resting scenario. Let's say:
Getting a cup of coffee
Talking to a colleague
Going for a smoke
Checking social media
Watching a funny video.
None of these rest scenarios are essentially good or bad.
Why? Because it all depends on what kind of work you were doing.
Now guess - if you've just spent an hour staring at the computer screen and decided to watch a video on your phone during a break, how efficient your rest is?
On a scale from 1 to 5, you're probably going to hit the lowest one.
What's the five, then? Something like going outside, doing mobilizing exercises, taking your eyes off the screens (mobile including!).
The secret to efficient rest is to use these 17 minutes to walk away from anything you’ve been doing. The more different your break time, the better you'll rest, and the more energy you'll get to tackle the next thing on the list.
if your work is talking to people, use your break to practice silence;
if you're crunching numbers, talk to your colleagues and discuss something emotional or funny;
if you're doing a physically demanding job outside, go get a cup of coffee and marinate on the couch.
if you’re sitting, get up and move.
Never leave your rest to chance. Plan your off-time and strategically allocate time to breaks - especially on the days when it seems you have no time at all.
This planning activity is inspired by the 24/7 worksheet by Emily and Amelia Nagoski from the book Burnout.
It will help you see:
how much rest you're getting throughout the day
where exactly you might be wasting time
how you can optimize your schedule for the best work-rest ratio.
Download the worksheet here and print out two copies. One is going to represent your Real Schedule, the second - your Ideal Schedule.
Fill out the whole week with your real schedule. Try to be as precise as possible. Mark the actual time you use throughout the week for
Sleep (the time spent falling asleep counts toward your sleep)
Regular events, including work, commute, kids care, meal prep, shopping, bathing, internet, and social media time.
Scheduled activities such as doctor's’ appointments, repairs, car maintenance, etc.
You can fill out the whole week in advance or fill it out day by day as the week progresses.
Take a look at your week and pinpoint the possible "rest" issues and opportunities:
Maybe you're guilty of getting stuck in work that stretches for far too long
Maybe you're spending 30 minutes before bed on your phone - the time that you could potentially use to sleep or for self-care
Maybe you can use your commute time to meditate or practice calming breathing.
Now fill out the Ideal Schedule. Make the adjustments to the rest issues you've pinpointed before. Most importantly, allocate at least 15 minutes for rest after every hour or so. Write down precisely what you're planning to do during your break - breathe, stretch, talk to a friend, go for a walk, relax in bed, sit on your phone. Remember to diversify your resting routine as much as possible.
Got any questions, suggestions, or feedback? Send me an email at email@example.com.