Do Your Best Work By Getting Away

Focus is important. That’s not too difficult to understand. If you want to do something well, you focus on that thing. You work hard. You get the job done… Well, stop.

Recently, I have been focused on a few specific things; teaching English, studying Japanese, and learning how to build some decent internet. When I’m not at work I’m either teaching online, studying, or writing. I have never considered myself a hard worker, but I’ve been working my butt off lately. Then, this weekend changed everything.

On Friday after work, a co-worker of mine invited me out to the batting cages to hit some baseballs. This was an interesting prospect to me considering I had not hit a baseball since little league(even then, there was more missing than hitting). My immediate reaction was, “this is cutting into your study time,” and, “you won’t get to sleep on time.” But, I went anyway.

This weekend has also signalled the beginning of football(the American kind), a sport that I used to follow far more passionately than I do now. I warned myself, “don’t get stuck watching games, it’ll be a waste of your time.” I watched two. I witnessed the Ohio State Buckeyes disappoint on their home field and, just recently, I watched the Detroit Lions get their season off to a nice start(I saw the first half, at least, before I had to go teach at a kindergarten).

So, over a weekend I foresaw as being one overrun by work and study, I watched two football games, went to the batting cages, and got more exercise than I have in about a month. Much to my pleasure, and, when I think about, not so much to my surprise, doing these things has not ruined my productivity at all, but enhanced it.

First off, I will not try to make the argument for going to a batting cage for 30 minutes as a great form of exercise. But, the truth is, it was more physical activity than I have done in a little while. It was an activity that had my body moving in an unfamiliar way and it got the ball rolling for a healthy weekend as I managed to make time for workouts on both Saturday and Sunday.

The football games awakened the sports fan side of me that I’ve, more or less, ignored for a while now with the certain exception of the World Cup this summer. The action of a high pressure play had my blood pumping in it’s own way and the successes and failures of my teams had me anxious for some success of my own.

Before I’d even considered the possibility of taking part in these activities, I focused on the potential negative outcomes of not devoting myself entirely to my tasks. I may have only made solid contact on 4 out of 60 balls that came my way, and only one of my teams were victorious, but I know these ‘distractions’ ultimately had a positive effect on my productivity. My time working may have gone down slightly, but the quality of my output rose tremendously.

My activity away from work had me motivated to do work well and helped me think in a more abstract way. When you devote all your time to one or two things, your mind becomes one dimensional. I do not think I need to make the argument of exercise as a positive thing for productivity and overall health, as it is likely the most frequently occurring thing on to-do lists worldwide that is not done.

If you are having trouble getting into a workout rhythm, start with a simple physical activity like going for a walk, throwing a football with a friend, or going to the batting cages. When you get into a solid rhythm you can start implementing higher intensity workouts.

By working yourself towards your goal in a non-stop fashion you achieve a few things, namely, exhaustion, boredom, bad moods, and progress. I do not mean to overshadow the fact of progress. I have made improvements in each of my tasks by working in this way, but the progress can, and will, be stunted by the other outcomes as well.

Doing things unrelated is vital to the quality of your primary work, especially if your work is something creative. It helps you think in different ways and reset from the exhaustion that can occur from doing the same thing all the time.

Devotion towards your work can be a positive thing, but it is a quality at it’s best when coupled with the ability to walk away and do other things.

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