All That's Trucking

Recharge Your Brain for Better Business

Blog commentary by Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief

May 25, 2017

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Photo: Deborah Lockridge
Photo: Deborah Lockridge

It’s Memorial Day weekend, the kickoff for many to the summer vacation season. And if you think skipping vacation in order to get more work done is good for your business, your career, or your mental health, think again.

During HDT’s inaugural Heavy Duty Trucking Exchange event earlier this month, keynote speaker Tim Richardson spoke about innovative thinking, and one of his key points was the need to step back from your day-to-day work. “How can we stay on the top of our game if we are at it all the time?” he asked.

Taking a vacation is more important now than ever, as the line between work life and personal life increasingly blurs with people checking email and taking calls during their kids’ soccer game or even at the dinner table.

Some forward-thinking companies not only pay for employees’ time off — they actually help pay for them to go on vacation and expand their horizons. That’s because numerous studies show that taking time off to recharge our bodies and our minds is vital for our physical and mental well-being — and makes us more productive and creative.

Project: Time Off says “the data is unmistakably clear: planning for and taking time off benefits individual well-being and professional success, business performance, and the broader economy.” So-called “work martyrs,” it has found, are actually less likely to get a raise or bonus, and are no more likely to get a promotion. What they do have is more stress.

To really spark creativity, experts suggest making sure your vacation involves new experiences, especially traveling abroad and experiencing other cultures. “New sounds, smells, language, tastes, sensations, and sights spark different synapses in the brain,” notes this 2015 article in The Atlantic. “Foreign experiences increase both cognitive flexibility and depth and integrativeness of thought, the ability to make deep connections between disparate forms,” it quoted Adam Galinsky, a professor at Columbia Business School and the author of numerous studies on the connection between creativity and international travel.

Still, there’s only so much vacation you can take. That’s why it’s also important to take other steps to foster creativity throughout the year.

As this 2014 article in Entrepreneur notes, “few ambitious achievers understand one of the biggest secrets of productivity--the refueling principle. It comes down to this: You get more done quicker when you step back and recharge the brain and body. Studies show that performance increases after breaks of all durations: from extended vacations down to microbreaks of 30 seconds.”

After all, notes the author, most of us wouldn’t think twice about needing to take a break after an hour of aerobics class or running. Yet for some reason, we don’t treat our brain the same way.

Jeff Stibel, CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp., brain scientist and author of Wired for Thought and other books, tells Entrepreneur: ”When you're thinking about a problem, it's confined to one or two regions in the brain, but the solution may not be in those areas. By resting, the information sits in your brain and then percolates across other sections of the brain.”

Creativity and innovation also come from reaching outside of your own brain. At HDTX, Tim Richardson suggested other ways in addition to vacations to help spark creative thinking:

1. Read books related to your position or profession.

2. Attend personal or professional learning events or classes

3. Listen to audio programs and podcasts.

4. Take a vacation from technology. Will Facebook really miss you?

5. Exercise regularly. A recent article in Inc.com calls exercise the one habit that can make the most positive impact on your life.

6. Develop a circle of people you can go to when you need help solving a problem or bouncing an idea off of.

7. Meet new people. When you go to an event, don’t gravitate to the ones you know or who look like they might be kindred spirits, he said. Instead, look for the person in the room who looks likely to be the least like you. You never know what creative thoughts may ensue.

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Author Bio

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Deborah Lockridge

Editor-in-Chief

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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