What Elementary School Taught Me About Personal Productivity

This is a guest post by Justin Wise. He is is the social strategist for Monk Development, builders of Ekklesia 360. He is also one of the Community Leaders on this blog. Check out his personal blog and follow him on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

We live right next to an elementary school. If I’m going to an appointment, I’ll sometimes see the kids out at recess. Jumping, skipping, laughing—genuinely free.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/CEFutcher, Image #18229498

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/CEFutcher

Inevitably, the bell rings and the teachers start the impossible task of herding excitable, pint-sized people into the confines of a classroom. I can almost hear them from inside my house, “But I don’t wanna!” Such is life, I guess.

One afternoon after witnessing this scene, I started thinking how important recess is to those children. This brief break in the day provides them with the opportunity to blow off some steam, socialize with friends, and get some physical activity.

The consequences of having these basic needs unmet are dire. Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you the worst days are the ones with inside recess. Simply put, kids need this time.

It’s easy for us adults to see recess as something only for kids. But are we, in all our sophistication, that different? Could it be that long after we’ve left the crayons, hot lunches, and paper maiche projects behind we still have a deep need to recharge during our day?

Our modern workday has been heavily influenced by the Industrial Revolution. The name of the game was “efficiency” and the star of the show was the production line. Human beings became human doings.

Unfortunately, the work patterns of this era still follow many of us into our nine-to-five jobs. We’ve chained ourselves to the modern-day version of the production line (computer) and pushed ourselves past the point of productivity.

Is it any wonder that a Towers Watson study suggests that companies with a high percentage of disengaged workers (read: burned-out) reported an eleven percent decline in earnings and a thirty-two percent plummet in operating income?

I think grade school kids understand something that we grown-ups have forgotten.

Might I suggest an adult version of recess? A period of time during the day where you have the ability to clear your mind, chat with friends and co-workers, and get some physical activity?

If that sounds like something you’d want to try, here are some suggestions I’ve implemented into my own life:

  1. Have lunch with a friend or spouse. An alarming number of people eat in the same place they work: at their desk. Adding insult to injury, this “cube food” is usually highly-processed, frozen, and devoid of all nutrients. Grab a friend and go out of the office for lunch. Even if you’re an introvert, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel afterwards.
  2. Read a fiction book. For fun. Having a young family, I can’t always read as much as I’d like. My “recess” allows me the time to catch up on books I’ve been neglecting for too long. Fiction accesses a different part of the brain and gets us out of our mental ruts.
  3. Go for a walk. Have you ever wondered why solutions to some problems only come when we stop thinking about them? It’s because your brain is backlogged. Taking a breather gives it time to catch up. Taking a walk (or any physical activity) is a great way to give your brain a break!
  4. Sit in silence. This might sound goofy for uninitiated, but your mind, body, and spirit crave the chance to quiet down during the day. Turn off your monitor, cell phone, close your office door (if you can). Any place you can shut out distraction. Then, just sit. Even if it’s five minutes, you’ll feel it. In going with our analogy, think of this as “nap time” for adults. Kids need it. So do grown-up kids, i.e. “adults.”

Depending on where you work (or who you work for) your options may be limited. That doesn’t mean you can’t unplug. You’ll just have to get creative.

If you start implementing some of these changes into your workflow, you will feel a difference. It’s biologically impossible for you not to!

There is high-level research being done on the link between rest and productivity. Suffice to say that taking breaks during the day allows us to gather the mental debris floating around in our heads and get rid of it. It’s not wishful thinking; it’s science.

So the next time you see a group of elementary kids playing in the schoolyard, ask yourself the question, “Did I get my recess today?”

Questions: Do you take breaks during the day? If so, what do you do during that time? If not, why not? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

    Recently, I have been trying to take a walk a lunch time.  It’s amazing how refreshed I return to the office ready for the afternoon.

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      Great, Jon. I haven’t done this but I like to try it out some of these days. 

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      That’s a great idea.

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       A walk is a great feeling during lunch time. Especially if you can find a beautiful area to walk through.

      • http://jonstolpe.com/ Jon Stolpe

         There’s a two mile loop right behind my office that is fairly scenic.  I can typically get in a brisk walk around this loop in less than 30 minutes.  I come back refreshed (and sometimes windblown).

  • BillintheBlank

    Great thoughts, Justin. As a school administrator, I find it helpful to actually get out to recess myself and take in some sunshine — and maybe a swing or two! Your point about getting creative conects to Michael’s latest podcast about asking the right questions.  Thanks!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Adults need recess, too! Glad you see the value of taking a breather! Thanks for the comment.

  • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

    Great Post, Justin. I’ve had a number of individuals encourage me to pick up fiction recently. I’ve got a book and I’m going to get started.

    On a business note, you’re getting a new client soon – our university has selected Monk for our new web design.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Oh that’s such great news, Michael! We’re honored to have you and your team on board. Let me know if I can ever help you out, okay?

      • http://www.michaelnichols.org/about Michael Nichols

        Yes sir – certainly will!

  • http://runningwithhorses.wordpress.com/ Steve Hawkins

    Great post Justin! Each day at work, I take a 30-minute walk at lunch time and listen to a podcast to fuel me through the second half of the day. Amazing how a short break can make a difference. 

    Your post reminds me of what Robert Fulgham said about kindergarden–all he needed to know about how to live and what to do he learned during that time: Share everything. Play fair. Don’t hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Flush. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody. Warm cookies and milk are good for you.

    Somehow as we grow up, we forget all of that and wonder why we feel the way we do.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Now you’re making me hungry…it might be time for some cookies! ;)

  • http://www.alslead.com/ Dave Anderson

    My father was a department head at West Point for his last 24 years in the Army.  Everyday, he would play handball against cadets or younger officers for 60-90 minutes in the middle of the day.

    His energy never waned during the day.  He stayed in great shape.  And, he was beating his younger opponents (20-30 year olds) to the day he retired at age 64. See more about my dad  below:


    Productivity, health, and beating the young guys….sounds like a good reason to follow his lead and your ideas Justin!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      I have been thinking about this comment all day. It resonates with me because I too work out over the lunch hour, just like your dad.

      Just a simple discipline but the results, as you’ve shown, are well worth it!

    • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

      Wow that’s great! What a legacy!

  • http://www.SiaKnight.com/ Sia Knight

    Sometimes when I have had enough, I will take a break right in the middle of a task.  This is contrary to the way that I am wired; I usually need to get to the perfect stopping point before I will pause.  Miraculously, I have found that the task is always still there when I return, and I benefit from an impromptu break.

    • Jim Martin

      I have done the same thing Sia.  I have found this particularly helpful when a project is taking longer than it should and is becoming monotonous.  Thanks.

  • http://dalemelchin.wordpress.com/ Dale Melchin

    Its interesting that even though we have transitioned into the Knowledge Worker/Idea age, we still have much to learn about how to change our work habits to fit this new paradigm.

    In the line of work I am in, we are required to take all of our breaks or we get wrote up.  Perhaps if more companies would take this approach to breaks and lunches we’d be better off.

    I personally find the idea of unplugging during the day refreshing.  You have to do this as a “production worker” or as a business owner.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Refreshing is a great way to put it. Mind, body, and soul, all refreshed by a simple break in the action!

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Great post, Justin. Just like kids, I think recess and naps are important. My current job requires a lot of walking, which is much better than my previous desk-bound job. For most people, just taking a walk during the workday will be beneficial. If possible, getting exercise early in the morning is best, since it energizes you through the day.

    My big question at recess… is it 3rd grade rules or 4th grade rules?

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      My daughters tell me “girls rule, boys drool.”  That’s just what I’ve heard. ;-)

    • Joan Keaton

      I like kindergarden rules….naps, snacks, play, snacks and more play!!

  • Diane

    After work I try to take a 30 minute nap. During this nap I don’t fall asleep, but just rest my body. This nap helps organize my thoughts as well. This nap is like a “power” nap for me!

  • Kroberts

    I try to run during my lunch or do an exercise class.  I have flexibility to take my “lunch” when I can fit it in and sometimes that is a 9:30 exercise class.  I feel so much better when I can get exercise in during the day.

  • http://mauricefoverholt.wordpress.com/ Maurice F. Overholt

    Justin, this is golden. I have fond that I HAVE to take a break about every 2 hours if I am doing work at my computer, and especially if I am doing creative work. Otherwise I get headaches. If I am out laying block with my dad, however, I simply need food breaks because my mind is idling and I am getting plenty of social time with the crew and I am having a good time

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Yes! I use an app that forces me to get away from my computer every two hours. It’s kind of extreme, but I need it. Otherwise I’d sit there all day!

      • http://www.charlielyons.ca/ Charlie Lyons

        Justin, what is the name of that app, please?

  • http://bbcjc.com/ Randy Dignan

    Great great read!  This was so refreshing to me!  I thought I was the only one who”still” loves recess!  Remember the jingle…?  “I don’t wanna grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R Us Kid!”  There are three ways I have recess on most days…  One; I drop down and do 50-200 push-ups…  Another way is I walk down my hallway office on my hands!  (Yes, I can walk on my hands for over 50 feet…  Blood rushes to your brain!  Gravity works in the opposite direction!  Who needs a 5 hour energy!)  Finally, and my favorite…  What is recess without a buddy!  I call one of my best friends (Pastor Rick Koonce) most days and we talk anywhere from 5-15 minutes about anything but serious stuff!!  We laugh, say silly things, tell crazy stories…  And then!  Voila!!  I’m ready to get back to work!  Glorious day!  Thanks Mr. Hyatt for still believing in recess!  You have a supporter right here!  Hey…  Let’s go play!  God bless!

  • http://bbcjc.com/ Randy Dignan

    I’m sorry…  I just read the article without reading the guest intro…  Thank you Mr. Wise!  That was great!  It’s all good!  Excuse me…  The bell is ringing…  Time for recess!
    God bless y’all and make it a great day!  See ya on the playground!

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      We’ve all done that Randy.  About reading all the instructions…when I was in 10th grade the teacher handed out an assignment and said “Read ALL the instructions before starting.” Of course most of us got right to it.  The last sentence of the instructions said, “Do not do this worksheet.” So those who followed directions sat and watched us worker bees completing the worksheet.  It was a great learning moment.  (In psychology class, no less.)

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      No worries. Now go walk down TWO hallways for penance :)

  • http://twitter.com/JedidiahJSmith Jedidiah Smith

    I love this blog. First I’m told to take a nap and now to take a recess!

  • http://cherionethingivelearned.blogspot.com/ Cheri Gregory

    Justin — Love all of these! I have to work the hardest on #4 but the rewards are often the greatest.

    I’m trying to include fun breaks in my day. I’ve been watching Ken Davis comedy  DVDs, partly to analyze his speaking/delivery style (work) but mostly to enjoy some great laughs (fun.) 

    If I focus too long and hard on work, without play breaks, the creative, spontaneous part of me sulks in her room…which is not good for productivity in the long haul!

  • http://www.theemptyinbox.com/ Michael

    Great post, Justin.

    I TOTALLY agree:  we need a physical and mental break every now and again.  Getting up from my desk every hour or so just to take a short walk down the hall is helpful. 

    As humans, we were created to MOVE.  And, frankly, sitting for hours on end, fixated on two 25″ monitors is not good — my eyes need a break!

    Walking through the office gives my blood a chance to flow and provides a mental ‘gear-shifting’ that helps too.  

    Ooops, the bell is ringing.  Recess is over.  Back to work.

    Thanks again for the post!


    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      My pleasure, sir! Glad you enjoyed it ;)

  • sevenmoredays

    There’s a wonderfully quiet conservation park with trails near my workplace that I take walks in at lunch.   It gives me time to think, connect with God and enjoy the natural surroundings.  That half an hour carries me through the afternoon and is definitely uplifting to my outlook, no matter what may happen during the day!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       That’s one of the best! We have a beautiful nature area within two miles of my work. I have made that my break haven.

  • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

    Great post Justin.  Another great way to get “recess” is to play with your kids. It opens up conversations that wouldn’t occur in other settings, and gives you a great excuse to play like a kid.   Of course, as a stay home mom, my recess is FROM the kids, not with them.  (Kidding! Kind of.)  Seriously, a walk, lunch with a friend, or even a phone call is like therapy for the soul.  I love that you call it recess.  

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      GREAT idea with the kids. I didn’t even think to mention that, mostly because I’m spoiled and can see mine whenever I want (I work from home.) Great addition!

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    I take breaks now, but I never used to when I worked in the corporate world. I kidded myself into believing that having a cappucino while working was a break. Now, I work at home and take real breaks, sometimes to exercise, sometimes to read, and sometimes even to nap. Much healthier these days for sure.

  • Joan Keaton

    I ocassionally take breaks in the day and always feel refreshed when I just “get away” for awhile.  I am thinking about initiating an “adult recess” once a week where I work.  We can have adult conversations, talk about books we have read, what we do to relieve stress, or just sit silently and read.

  • http://twitter.com/TheWillCook Will Cook

    This is an awesome idea. I am in college and am in class from 7 am to 3pm and then have to go straight to work after. I notice a huge difference in my demeanor and engagement at work when I get a nap or some quiet time during the day as compared to not. I have often discussed how when we are children, we are opposed to nap time. Yet, when we are older, we wish we could have it everyday.

  • M Ahmed

    very nice; I miss my school days specially the recess time; but now I will try to get it back in my life :)

  • http://www.workyouenjoy.com Adam Rico

    Love the post Justin. At my office we have “quiet rooms” that I will often visit during a hectic day. I can sit there to just think or take a break. As an introvert, this gives me the much needed time to process my thoughts.

    I say we also introduce a graham crackers and milk break into our work days. It works for kindergarteners.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Make it vanilla Oreos and I’m right there with you ;)

  • deborahwatson

    I start the day off taking a break with Jesus after I have feed the animals and prepared lunch for the teenager and husband. I have more recently began taking breaks reading while laying in the hammock on a sunny day. At least for 30 minutes, and on a great day, an hour.

  • http://brandonweldy.wordpress.com Brandon Weldy

    I enjoy having lunch with my wife. I always feel relaxed and ready for the last part of my day afterward. If I have to be in the office for a long day then I take one or two breaks where I go to our gym and shoot some hoops for about 5 or 10 minutes. 

    • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

      That’s great, Brandon. The main thing is to make taking regular breaks a habit. By the way, you have done a good story on George Washington Carver. But I am not able to post a comment there. Please rectify the issue.

  • http://twitter.com/stevencbradley Steve Bradley

    I agree with everything you say, Michael.  Rest times are important, but so is “fun.” I don’t mean “fun” like going to the gym, where the objective is to keep fit, but “fun” like “movements I enjoy.” For me, that’s bicycling, hiking, walking,  and so on.  “Fun movement” is often the missing part of exercise “regimens.”  Kids (I have 9 grandkids) are in constant motion. They sit still to concentrate, but they are always moving around.  “Fun movements” are almost forgotten. We “WORKout.” We “GET fit.” “No pain, no gain.” Not one of these things imitates kids playing. We need to PLAY!  One of the best lessons in my life came many years ago when I was a pastor at a small church in Indiana.  I had finished my Sunday sermon, and I was exiting the church. It had just snowed, and I walked into a huge snowball fight, led by the deacons of the church.  No longer somber (it was that kind of place), they had shed all pretense of dignity and were engaged in all-out WAR, with me in the middle. As I thought about those moments over the years, I realized that I also needed to stop and let off steam (they creamed me, by the way). Everyone does.  Our jobs, our families, our lives have eternal significance. I don’t necessarily think our seriousness does.  We NEED play.
    Steve Bradley

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Great point, Steve. Our bodies, minds, and sould crave the playfullness of childhood. A snowball fight is a great way to show it!

  • KatieMc

    Thanks for this! I think I shall set Outlook reminders to get up, do some stretching exercises, go for a walk, breathe, etc. 

    • http://www.theemptyinbox.com/ Michael

      Katie – Yes…breathing is pretty important.  : – )   I know what you mean. 

      Sitting for too long — we simply go numb.

  • jimsimply

    Great post. Our word “school” comes from the Greek word “schola,” which means “leisure.” And leisure or recreation–in all the forms Justin lists–does “re-create” us for our tasks. I’ve found working from a base posture of leisure, rather than from tension, has made me better, as both person and leader.

    • Jim Martin

      Very good thoughts.  I like what you say at the end about working from a base posture of leisure instead of tension.

  • http://cavemanreflections.blogspot.com/ Michael Mulligan

    Great post, Justin.  I’d like to add that most of us are locked inside cubicles most of the day, forgetting about are true passions.  Doing something you love rather than some kind of 9-5 grind is like recess all day.  This is a recent “re-discovery” for me.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      AMEN. +1 and all that jazz. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • jimsimply

    Forgot to say that I also try to walk or read (usually a poem–the same one all week) at several points during the day. Since I’m also a school administrator, I try to get outside and jump into a game when I can–foursquare, jumprope, touch football, whatever’s going.

  • esarbee

    When I was working in factories I always had at least 15-20 minute breaks which I would call recess. Now in workplaces outside factories you have to choose your recess. I’m not working at this point, so it’s easier to refresh. I certainly get Mikes reasoning that if we got all peoples on the planet to have recess, we would create more chances of having a peaceful time on planet earth. We would also slow down our fast paced life-style and give ourselves a chance to live better.  Refreshing it is and it breaks down anxiety and depression and stress. The Italians are smart. They have a siesta in the middle of the day. All businesses close for two hours or so. Why can’t we learn from them. Have you ever found Italians not hospitable, it’s because they have learned to relate better by having siestas. Recess is a must for us to live effective lives.

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

    Great post! I’d add a #5 for those who can do this…go the the gym at lunch and play basketball or work out with the guys/girls.  Not everyone is able to do that based on their work, but those who can may benefit from it.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Lunch is my hallowed workout hour. Don’t be messin’ with it! ;)

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  • http://www.lindamcquinncarlblom.blogspot.com/ Linda McQuinn Carlblom

    I always read during my lunch time. I look forward to it just like I did recess when I was a kid!

  • http://www.sundijo.com Sundi Jo Graham

    Don’t forget a nap. 

  • Cyndy Salzmann

    Contrary to popular belief, REST is not a four letter word. God designed us to need rest and refreshment. I take a cue from the British and take tea in the afternoon – preferably on my porch so I can feel the sun on my face.

  • http://www.irunurun.com/blog/ Travis Dommert

    Reminds me of the book SPARK: the revolutionary science of exercise and the brain, and the study of Naperville, IL schools where their fitness program showed breakthru results in terms of both academic performance as well as incidence of misbehavior.

    Turning “no child left behind” on its ear, innovative schools are cutting a class to let the kids play again!  We need to do the same!

    • Jim Martin

      Travis, it is great to hear what some innovative schools are doing regarding recess.    This is refreshing in an environment where some school districts still talk about possibly cutting out recess.

  • Connie

    I need to work 8 hours and I get out of the office sooner if I don’t take breaks.

  • keithferrin

    This might not be as profound, but I think many of us adults could benefit from a game of kickball now and again! Oh…the stress reduction of kicking something really hard (and not getting in trouble for it).

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Dude. I love kickball. It was one of the only schoolyard games I was good at!

  • http://joeandancy.com/ Joe Abraham

    Love this post, Justin. It’s true that all of us need our own version of ‘recess’ daily. One of the ways I do this is by watching a music/worship clip for a few minutes. Something else that helps me a lot (especially after working for a long time on computer) is to simply enjoy the beautiful greenery outside the office for sometime. That helps my eyes and mind.

  • http://www.15minutewriter.com Sharon Gibson

    Thanks much for this post. I had not ever thought about this in relation to recess. I think this perspective and permission is very needed. the increase in physical and emotional illness can be linked to overworking.
    I’ve discovered time boxing which has helped me.  I set aside 45-90 minute times to focus on writing or work and then take a break.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Not only is overworking taxing on our bodies, it simply isn’t effective. Study after study shows that we have built-in “productivity limits” that don’t budge. Once we’ve used up our limits, we stop producing quality work!

  • http://www.momentsofgracelotr.com/ Anne Marie

    My recess is my lunch hour. Love it!

  • http://www.charlielyons.ca/ Charlie Lyons

    This is just fantastic stuff, Justin. So practical and yet it’s missed by so many, myself included. Thank you for sharing your great thoughts on this topic of rest and productivity. Blessings!

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com/ Nikole Hahn

    Or maybe we could change the whole work place environment by adding recess and a personal massagist to the menu. LOL. Great suggestions on a more serious note. I take power walks on my lunch and it allows my mind to wander invariably to be inspired to write a blog post about something I observed. 

  • http://melissaaoconnor.wordpress.com/ Melissa O’Connor

    Stress can have so many negative effects on the body and although, when you have a million things to do, it seems impossible to make time to take a break or just relax for five minutes, I’ve learned that it makes all the difference. That break allows you time to organize your thoughts and feel more at ease, and in the end, it makes you more productive.

    • Jim Martin

      Melissa, you are right.  When a person has so many things to be do on a given day, it is very easy to assume there is no time for a break.  Yet, that break can be so important to stamina and the quality of work that is done.

  • http://twitter.com/smuddles Sarah Mudd

    As an introvert I find #4 to be so important in my everyday routine! I work in education in an active, others centered job. I love it, but it can be hard to maintain consistent energy. It’s amazing how refreshing it is to go home and not turn on anything but just be– exactly what my soul needs! 

  • http://twitter.com/clickhost ClickHOST.com

    Justin, thanks for reminding us that we all need a “recess” during the workday.
    I sometimes work from home and enjoy eating lunch with my wife.Power-naps, no more than 30 minutes, are great to re-energize me in the middle of the day.


    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      I think naps may be the most underrated form of entertainment available.

  • Wala1560

    Usually after lunch our editing team will take a walk together or throw some football in the afternoon for a little break. It’s refreshing to breath the outside air and get some exercise.

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  • http://www.makemoneyinlife.com James W

    great and informative post, thanks for sharing :)

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

       James, do you find yourself taking a mini recess for yourself throughout the day?

      • http://www.makemoneyinlife.com James W

        Hi Joe, yes, and in that time I mostly devote myself more to my family and to drink some really nice and healthy tea :)

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    Great post. I’m learning all these things as I’ve gone back to study a Masters Degree in Education this year. The toughest thing sometimes is taking a break, but if I don’t re-energise then the work suffers. It is actually more beneficial to me to take a break, get out of the library and outdoors.

  • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

    I do take breaks during my workday.

    Lunch time is my main “recess”. I grab leftovers from home and bring a nice, healthy meal for lunch. I then kick back in the truck and read a good book. If I’m really jonesing, I take a walk through the nice wooded area provided in the park.

    I also take small breaks throughout the day. If I have to drive down to the other plant, I’ll take a slightly different route back while rolling down the windows. Letting the cool, spring breeze flow over me.

    And sometimes it’s just getting up and walking away from my desk. Taking a stroll through the shop floor or a quick jot outside to throw something away.

  • Mary Brotherton

    I walk with the camera of my cellphone read to see what surprises await me during my lunch break. I’m physically out and seeing the world from a photographer’s perspective, which is a step into the creative world, a distinct difference from my editorial work.

    • Rachel Lance

      Great idea, Mary! Looking at the world with photography in mind erases the daily noise and is so cathartic. I hadn’t thought of using my iphone to get a mini dose of photo fix. Thanks!

  • Lisa V.

    Definitely do some reading when I’m solo.  Try also to take a walk.  In our office with no windows it’s downright claustrophobic at times.   Sometimes taking lunch with coworkers is great but often conversation is about work which is the exact opposite of what you want to do.

    • Rachel Lance

      No windows? Yikes! Can you get out of the building for some fresh air and daylight? I have a great window but still I often find myself retreating to my car for some quiet time during the day. 

  • http://twitter.com/MarieWiere Marie Wiere

    Some lunch times I’ll take my lunch and school books and sit in Starbucks. Its nice to get out of the office and far better than the days when I eat lunch in my office. Great post Justin!

    • Rachel Lance

      Starbucks doesn’t pride themselves on being our “third place” for nothing! The change of scenery, the fresh air, the mental stimulation – they’re all doing you a world of good! (I’m guessing a tasty beverage is in there too – always helpful!)

      • http://twitter.com/MarieWiere Marie Wiere

        Oh yes the beverage and the great atmosphere are the best part!

  • Jessica Zirbes

    I totally agree! I never related this need to children, interesting. My mental breaks include boot camp class, yoga and cooking.

    I recently wrote an article titled: 5 ways to reduce stress

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Thanks for the link, Jessica.

  • Dldnfoote

    Teachers know how important spontaneous breaks are for learning. Unfortunately recess…as well as Kindergarten play time….is fast disappearing in the current academic crunch.

  • Rashaan Mateen

    I have an amazing 5th floor lunch crew that I eat with everyday. We emphasize our lunch on this very principal. Taking a break. We tell jokes, we laugh, and we just have fun and talk everything other than work. It’s truly a diverse group too. I love it and I look forward to it everyday

  • Rsr777

    Great, great article…Thanks for caring enough to post…have already forwarded it on to some life-changers that forget to do recess!

  • http://www.laurasmithauthor.com/ Laura L. Smith

    For me running is the ultimate recess. Yes, it gives my body the physical pick me up it needs – increasing heart rate, blood flow, etc. But more importantly, it helps my mind unwind. As I run, my brain dumps all the little thoughts and problems and questions it has been storing up since my last run. They unwind, unravel, get solved and aired out. I finish my run refreshed mentally and physically – more prepared to dive back in and tackle my tasks for the day

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      I’m with you, Laura. There’s nothing quite like a midday run. Energizing!

  • Kathy

    For all the workaholics – how about a few suggestions on how to shut off thinking about work in your silence, walks, etc. Techniques to change what you’re pondering would be helpful!  Thanks.

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      IMO, the biggest tip is to not get too down on yourself. I used to beat myself up for thinking about work-related things when I was taking down time. But then I realized, “Hey, this is what I’m passionate about!”

      Second, I always carry a notebook with me to jot down ideas and get them out of my brain. This way I can unload what I’m thinking about and focus on winding down. Easier said than done, but that’s why the first tip is there ;)

  • AmericanWriter

    Also ditch your blackberry… and sacrilegiously fast your iPhone on a regular basis. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jason.coorts Jason Coorts

    Great blog. One book on leadership, can remember the name or author now, had a term called ‘muse time’ where you have a time in your day to read with nothing in particular you’re trying to accomplish related to your job. A sort of personal development ‘me time’. I tend to get caught up with world/local news and espn.com over my lunch hour, yes hour,  if I’m not eating lunch with someone.  I do tend to be a lot more productive in the next couple of hours following.

  • Kendall Lyons

    Excellent article here. Also, I JUST ran into the site of Justin Wise, so, definitely no coincidence.

    I did something today I haven’t done in a while. When I came home from work, I left my TV off a good grand most of the evening. I cracked open one of my books, “Not A Fan” by Kyle Idleman, and truly am better because of that time taken. 

    As for my lunch breaks, I do need to work on those!

    • http://justin.am/ Justin Wise

      Welcome aboard, Kendall!

  • http://www.pmhut.com/ PM Hut

    Hi Justin,

    When we’re kids, we are very very productive, we always want to do work, it always seems that we’re never tired of working and it always seems that there was never enough work for us (we always wanted more).

    But then, we didn’t really need to work – could it be that productivity is inversely proportional to the need of working. (That’s why rich people are more productive than poor people).

  • http://journalmissionalliving.wordpress.com/ Sharon Hoover

    Such a fun post! Thanks for the reminder to get out and play. Our illusion that efficiency means nose-to-the-grindstone reduces our ability to truly contribute. I just wrote an article about the life-changing benefits of simply opening your windows! 

  • http://www.dental-management.net/ DentalAccountant

    I really like this post. I agree that many people now a days are very stress that they forget to take a break and sometimes don’t have time for their family. Thanks for this reminder. :-)

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  • http://twitter.com/lcsper_lucas Lucas Pereira

    Ha! I’d be tempted to never come back if there was a fixed recess.

  • Len_gee

    I work on crafts. Something I can work on with my hands. Mostly paper crafts.