Let us consider the humble break.
Breaks are an essential part of the workday. We talk about an eight-hour workday, but the fact is no one works eight hours straight. A full workday is really a series of work-break cycles: work for a while, take a break, and repeat.
Breaks can be a reward, but they’re mostly about rest—rest for our minds and bodies. But not all break activities are created equal. We can meditate, or we can grab a bag of M&Ms from the vending machine down the hall. We can take a walk, or we can check Twitter. We can grab a power nap, or we can watch YouTube videos.
The best breaks—the ones that recharge us most effectively—tend to involve a clean, well, break from our previous activity. And this takes effort. Going for a walk outside, for instance, is more restorative then mindlessly browsing Amazon, but it’s far easier to open a new tab than it is to get up from our desk.
The key, I think, is to recognize that more effortful break activities tend to do a better job of leaving us refreshed and be proactive about scheduling such activities. Breaks aren’t separate from our work—they’re a part of it. It’s therefore worth approaching breaks with the same intentionality as we do the rest of the day.