Monday, August 20, 2012

Take a read break

I’ve been an avid reader forever probably because my mother is. As a young child, I couldn’t help notice she perpetually had her nose in books. To this day she is the same. For comfort and a break from the stresses of life, books were and are her escape. Is there something in this for any of us whether leaders, managers or members of the vital teams that power all organizations?

Various research sources indicate that vast and deep reading helps us to connect disparate ideas thereby adding to the creative journey. For example, I’ve been told that when I am in front of groups as a facilitator-teacher, I seem to effortlessly pull out stories and all manner of peripheral and supporting information on the fly, depending on the direction of the class discussion. I don't even know what I know until a trigger comment from someone. Then, I have to watch that I don't lose my audience by deviating too long from where we were on the agenda! At the least reading broadens my thinking and helps me “entertain”.

But there is a real benefit to reading that it often overlooked – its stress-reducing power. According to John Coleman’s August 15, 2012 HBR blog, “For those who want to lead, read”, six minutes of reading can reduce stress by 68%.

Now that’s an attractor in today’s far too fast-paced work environments! But it all depends on what one is reading, doesn’t it? Heavy duty reports don’t qualify.

So all you managers out there, take out your novel and set an example that reading breaks - fiction or non-fiction - contribute to productivity not the other way around. Water cooler gatherings have finally gained respectability as they help social cohesion, innovation, employee engagement and well-being. Now it's time to put read breaks of any kind in that same category.

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