Good habits come from the funniest places.
A little over a decade ago I started having problems with my right wrist. Thinking that the carpal tunnel had finally caught up with me I had a check-up. The doctor agreed and I went into therapy. Things got better for a while then steadily worst. My caring wife felt that the doctors were not doing enough to diagnose my problem and pressured for an x-ray. Deciding to humor her (the doctors actual words) they did one and discovered “an expansile lesion involving the distal end of the right ulna”. For the layman, my right arm had a growth on a bone near my wrist. Whatever it was it had to go (my hand eventually came close to non-functional) so under the knife I went.
Now don’t worry about me, I’m ok and the story has a good ending. I had a Giant Cell Tumor, aggressive but benign I was told. And it was in a good location, being on my ulna next to my wrist. This bone is not connected to anything at that point so they could take it out and that was that. Nothing else was necessary. I am now outside the window for recurrence (7 years) and my wrist is 98.8 (my number) functional with some minor exceptions. And one of minor exceptions is where we are heading.
I am right handed and found that my wrist took daily pounding on the keyboard and mousing much not as well as it had. An ache like I have never had at night and during crunch times it was especially bad. I hated wearing a brace so I started to try alternatives and found the one that worked best was to simply take breaks. Step away from the keyboard for a short time and things improved quickly as long as I did it. Being a bit driven it was hard to stop so to enforce it I decided I had to leave my office and walk around to enforce the break. For a time I felt bad, that although I felt physically better the time away was wasted.
But soon I realized that when I returned I was more often than not more focused. The distance from the keyboard was good, my mind would slow and once in a while epiphanies would help solve an issue I was having.
Encouraged, I learned to build these into my day, to leave necessary reading so I could take it with me and read in a quiet location. Or on a bike in the gym (My wrist was a problem, not my legs). I also found it was also a good time to go talk with my team, just a causal walk by to see what was up. Not wasted time at all.
Years later I started to read materials encouraging this kind of behavior. In two recent articles in the Harvard Business Review titled “Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time” and “Cognitive Fitness” regular breaks every 90 to 120 minutes and getting out of your office and talking to your team are mentioned as productive in nature.
So where am I going with this? These habits may seem obvious now however they were not when I started them. No one taught me this, I began out of necessity and found an unexpected benefit. As a manager we work to lift our teams as well as ourselves. But if you are too tired and unable to focus you are failing both and a few minor changes in your day may make the difference.
Thomas De Lora