Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Taking Breaks

On Saturday, I made a huge mistake: I took the afternoon off. I didn't spend the time going on a walk, or writing in Orsolya, or even reading. I just wasted about 6 hours, and for the rest of the weekend, even though I tried to be productive and did get a lot of work done on school stuff...I felt off-center, still feel off-center, unprepared to take whatever might come my way this week.

I know that I could easily turn extremely lazy; thus I have constructed mental barriers that hopefully work to prevent laziness. As much as I can, I've tried to follow the principle of delayed gratification; I've written before how self-control is the highest virtue. That doesn't mean that I always live up to my high standards, but it does mean that when I take a day off in the beginning of the weekend as I did on Saturday, I beat myself up over it and swear not to do it again.

At this moment I can't really afford to take days off. My EA apps are due at the end of the month, in only two weeks, and even though I might be pushing my Common App ones to RD that's still a lot of work that needs to get done before the end of the year. I don't want to complain yet again about how busy I am this semester - but I am busier now than I was last year and I need to develop a healthy system of dealing with the stress, a system that will scale next year when I'm in college.

One of the biggest sticking points in my current system is the issue of breaks, as demonstrated above. Simply plowing through the work would lead to burnout, but knowing my personality I cannot afford to take days off - they cause more stress than they relieve.

Iterative process: how to take breaks better?

Something I've been doing recently to keep me focused on one thing for a set amount of time is by putting on a whole album/musical composition as background music, of length suited to the task. For example: Igor Stravinsky's "Rites of Spring" is about half an hour long, the right length for making a study guide for chemistry. A writing session may require a 45-minute to 1-hour long album.

I don't feel the need to address the benefits background music - I figure that's a subjective thing, and for me I've found it valuable. For others it might not be. Assuming that having music on in the background does help with concentration, then the big advantage of putting on one video is that you don't have to click away from whatever you're working on to change the music. Choosing the right length of music also gets rid of the need for an alarm, which I've found easy to turn off and then ignore.

At the end of each set, then, what I've been doing is putting on one lone song and doing whatever for that duration before going on to the next thing. But that's not really much of a break, and that's what I'm trying to improve. Longer, more relaxing breaks that don't interfere with workflow, that have a net reduction in stress. That's what I'm after.

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