Four years ago, I moved out of my home office and rented a commercial space. The reasons were varied but the main one was: I had been working at home for 10 years while raising my son. I felt like I had been housebound all that time — and was going crazy!
Plus, my son, who was 11 at the time, was growing out of his small bedroom and really wanted my office as it was double in size.
Renting office space has had many unexpected benefits. Instead of getting out of bed and heading straight for my computer — and then sitting there half the day in my pjs (or worse, sweats) — I now get up, take a shower, get dressed up and go to work. I love it.
And, it is quiet — no barking dogs (I have two) and no neighbor mowing the lawn. In short, I have nothing to distract me from my work, which, if I read comments on blog posts correctly, is nirvana for writer types like me.
It’s taken me all this time to figure out that I really need distraction to foster my creativity. No, not the ADD type of distraction that comes with social media. I’m talking about distraction in the form of breaks from work.
Working at my office means I sit for hours and go from one project task to the next — with little in the way of breaks. By 2:00 PM, I’m usually fried.
I came to the realization that maybe having an office might not be the best thing for me when I visited with my client Simone Joyaux during the summer. As we sat in her office talking about her Website Overhaul, we watched her life partner, Tom Ahern, work in the yard. “Moving here has been the best thing for him,” Simone said. “When he needs a break from his writing, he just gets up and works in the yard.” Their garden is breathtaking. And Tom, I might add, writes highly successful donor communications copy — the kind that gets people to hand over their money. (He’s really good.)
Matthew May, in his book, The Laws of Subtraction: Six Strategies for Winning in the Age of Excess Everything, talks about how researchers have determined that we’re most creative when we’re not working.
When I worked at home, I had built-in breaks — or what others call distractions. I’d write a piece, then get up and put in some laundry, wash dishes, or run the dogs around in the yard. It seemed as if I weren’t working, but I was because my brain was busy mulling over the “glitches” in whatever I was working on. Neuroscientists call this type of relaxed but aware thinking “alpha wave activity.”
According to May and the research he cites, taking breaks that allow your brain to work in this relaxed state can help you produce better work. In fact, it’s alpha wave activity that produces those a-ha moments that lead to real breakthroughs.
I’m glad I learned this because I’m moving back to my home office next month. And I’m happy to say, I’m really looking forward to all of the distractions inherent in a home office — especially taking breaks, running the dogs around in the yard, and sitting out on my back porch and watching the birds while I eat lunch.
What’s your experience with taking breaks from your work — and how do these breaks benefit you? Leave your comments.