How many times have you felt that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do all that you want and need to do? What if you could build in just ten or twenty minutes of recovery time every day?

Let’s look first at multitasking. Think about your typical day and evaluate how often you are focused on one single thing at a time. For most of us, we have multiple things going on. During a lesson in the Happiness Studies program Happiness Studies Academy, Dr. Tal Ben Shahar was talking about our incessant multi-tasking and how detrimental this can be to our wellbeing, productivity and happiness.

I looked at my workspace and realized that I had two computers running, three email accounts opened, and my phone was constantly vibrating from a group text. Additionally, I had 14 tabs opened on the computer that I was actively using. All this was going on while I was in class trying to take notes! I started wondering how much time I was wasting by having so many distractions. In addition to wasted time, it was clear that I was not putting myself in an optimal learning state.

Have you ever thought that you were accomplishing a lot by multi-tasking? We are not. We are making ourselves less productive! Studies have suggested that multitasking is a myth. Our brain doesn’t simultaneously process work but instead, it rapidly switches between various activities. Switching back and forth is considered necessary for anything that requires action planning.

In a study by Dr. Glenn Wilson and colleagues, they found that excessive use of technology such as attending to email, texts, and phone calls while doing other work is the equivalent of temporarily losing 10 IQ points.

Think about that for a second. If having your email on while doing other work can have that kind of impact, what do you think all of the texts, social media, and TV is doing to your IQ? How many IQ points might we be dropping in a typical day? Think about how much time you are wasting in your day because you are cutting down on your productivity.

Our brains aren’t meant for this. It’s completely taxing. Think of your two favorite songs. Would you love to hear both of them? Would you love to hear both of them played simultaneously? That would not be awesome, it would just be a mess of sound.

I’m going to challenge you here.

What if, instead of checking email, texting, checking Facebook, looking at Twitter and Instagram, taking phone calls, and listening to bad news, you shut it all down for blocks of time and worked on just one task. What if you took 60-90 minutes of technology-free time to work one task at a time. If you finish one thing, move on to the next. Keep going for 60-90 minutes and then take a break. Your increased productivity alone should buy you some extra time during the day.

Let’s also take a look at how much time you spend on common American activities.

1. Estimate the amount of time that you spend per week on the following things: watching bad news, Facebook, texting, tweeting, Instagram, or other social media tools. How many minutes/hours in the week? Write down your estimate.
2. What if you took 5% of those minutes and shut EVERYTHING off and gave yourself that gift of peace? What would 5% look like for you? Is that ½ an hour per week, an hour, two hours? What gifts could you give back to yourself during that time? What is something that brings you joy or something new you want to learn? Is there a book you’d like to read? Is there a person you want to call or spend time with? Would you like to spend some time alone in nature?
3. What is something fun that you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the time to do it?
4. Write down three to five enjoyable, meaningful things you can do with your extra minutes.
5. Start experimenting. Calculate the number of minutes you spend on the above-mentioned activities. Take 5% of those minutes and commit to building a recovery activity into your week. This is your recovery time, it’s for you, make it fun!

Build-in these “Islands of Recovery” every day, week, and year. Remind yourself that you are more productive, more creative, healthier, and happier when you take time to recover through fun, rest, exploring, creating, and simply doing things that you want to do rather than what you have to do. One final motivation to consider, it is often during these recovery times when we have our best ideas and solve problems. Cheers to recovery!

Karen Renaud
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