Self-Care Challenge: Part II

The Challenge

Earlier this year Kelly set a challenge for me:

“…take a 30 minute lunch break away from your desk for a fortnight and observe your productivity and how you feel." 

I recently posted about my experience, and how I was not successful in completing this challenge. Upon reflection I identified that my assumptions created the barriers that stopped me achieving my goal. After reflecting on ‘what went wrong’ I came up with four simple questions to guide me in changing my behaviour and reaching my goal in the future.


My Steps to Success

Today I would like to share my response to each of the four questions and my SMART goal to assist me in changing my behaviour.

1.    What is the goal and why is it meaningful to me?

The goal is not: To take a 30 minute break to eat lunch every day.

The goal is: To take a replenishing psychological break from work every day, which totals a minimum of half an hour. This is meaningful to me, because from both personal experience and Psychological research I understand that this will help build my resilience, stimulate more creative thinking and enhance my productivity.

 2.    How can I make sure that my goal is realistic?

Adapt to changing circumstances (because a 30 minute lunch break may not work every day)!

Ideas include:

  • Take 5 – 10 minutes between finishing one task and starting the next to read a few pages of a book or go for a walk outside
  • Take three 10 minute snack breaks throughout the day
  • Park far away from work so that you have a 5 – 10 minute walk when arriving to and leaving work
  • After travelling back from client meetings, spend 5 – 10 minutes engaging in a mindfulness activity in the car (see: for some useful mindfulness strategies).

 3.    What motivates me [and how can I use this to my advantage]?

  • I enjoy feeling busy and productive almost all of the time, so my breaks might include:
    • Reading a book that I can gain ideas from
    • Developing ideas for personal interests (e.g., writing a blog post, planning a holiday)
    • Engaging in self-reflection activities (e.g., drawing a mind map, writing in a journal)
    • Writing a letter to a friend
  • I enjoy celebrating the short-term wins, so my journey might include:
    • Posting updates on LFCS’s social media forums
    • Taking my break at a nice café to celebrate a milestone
  • I enjoy seeing evidence of behaviour change and positive results, so my journey may include:
    • Keeping a journal to track my progress
    • Seeking feedback from my colleagues and manager about observed changes in my behaviour
    • Review my productivity over time to observe whether the breaks have influenced the speed at which I complete jobs
    • Compare client feedback received on days that I have taken psychological breaks compared to those when I have not
  • I am demotivated when I fail at my attempt to achieve the goal, so my journey may need to include:
    • Reminding myself that I can reset my challenge every day – if I fall down once it does not need to cripple the entire journey
    • Perceiving the failure as an opportunity – identify what obstacle presented itself and decide on how to manage it more effectively in the future

 4.    “Knock off” assumptions

Assumption 1: by taking a psychological break, I am not being productive.

Reframe 1: A psychological break is a short term investment for a long term gain. Taking short breaks throughout the day is going to assist me in being a more resilient, innovative and productive employee compared to avoiding breaks and feeling burnt out.

Assumption 2: Others will judge me negatively if I take breaks.

Reframe 2: By taking breaks throughout the day I am demonstrating and role-modelling the behaviours that underpin our organisational value of “Resilience”, this in turn will normalise the practice/habit and help build a high performing and resilient team. Some colleagues may even be relieved to see that taking a psychological break is viewed positively by our organisation.

Assumption 3: There are unwritten rules around how you should take a break (i.e., 30 minutes at lunchtime).

Reframe 3: The intention behind the challenge was to foster a culture of resilience by taking psychological breaks from work. We operate in an innovative, change-focused and open-minded culture that recognises proactive behaviour and initiative. By adapting my approach to taking breaks I am making the journey more realistic.


My Smart Goal

I, Jessica Fraser agree that beginning 13th January 2015 (when I return to work from annual leave),

I will take a replenishing psychological break from work every day, which totals a minimum of half an hour.

This is attractive to me because it will help build my resilience, stimulate more creative thinking and

enhance my productivity. The costs of not doing this include feeling stressed and irritable, reduced physical

wellbeing, experiencing prolonged tiredness and taking more time to generate ideas and deliver work.

If the following obstacles should arise 1) personal assumptions, 2) time pressure and 3) feeling

defeated when I don’t succeed some days,

I will manage these by 1) reframing my assumptions and “knocking them off”, 2) adapting to my

schedule rather than trying to work against it and 3) resetting the challenge the following day and perceiving

it as an opportunity for learning.

If these actions are not achieved, I understand that the consequences for me will be an

increased likelihood of burnout, feelings of stress and fatigue and sending a message to my colleagues that

is inconsistent with our organisational values.

I will know that this is working when I see (more of/less of) the following: more energy in

completing my work, more motivation at work, more idea generation, and less feelings of fatigue and stress.

I will review my progress towards this goal on 10th February 2015, at Left Field Consulting Services offices with Kelly Maniatis, Managing Director Left Field Consulting Services.