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« A Rest from the Diet | Main | Plan backwards! »

The Work Fast

Here’s an exercise which I sometimes used to give to those of my clients who had problems with interruptions at work.

You have very likely at some time in your life tried a food fast. Many nutritionists recommend these for clearing toxins out of the body. Another type of fast you may have come across is the week-long reading fast that Julia Cameron gives as one of the exercises in her book “The Artist’s Way” (I lasted three days!). There are many other types of fast that you can try (chocolate, tv, alcohol, shopping, etc.). One of the main purposes of a fast is to show us how addicted we are to certain patterns of behaviour, and to open our minds (and bodies) to the possibility of new and more productive patterns.

So how about a work fast?

The idea behind a work fast is that you take a day off from work but spend the day in your normal place of work. While you are there you are not allowed to take part in any of the activities that are part of your standard working day. To keep yourself occupied take along a novel or two, a few magazines, some puzzles, anything that is not work related.

You are not allowed to:

a) switch on your computer.

b) answer the telephone or make calls

c) look at the mail

d) read anything work related

e) tidy your desk or sort out files

f) talk to colleagues except during official work breaks

g) do anything else work related.

You must remain at your desk at all times except during official work breaks.

If anyone interrupts you or asks you to do something, you tell them that you are working on an important project at the moment (true!) and can’t talk to them now.

So what you are doing is remaining at your work place but fending off all the interruptions and calls on your time that normally impinge on you all day long. Enjoy the challenge!

Once you’ve completed your fast and discovered that it is actually possible to sit at your workplace and successfully avoid all the things you normally spend your time on, you can start putting this to use. So you have an important project that you keep getting distracted from? The answer’s simple — declare a work fast. Only this time the rule is that you are not allowed to do any activities EXCEPT the important project. By using a one or two half-day work fasts a week, you can make sure that your most important projects get the focused attention they deserve.

Reader Comments (2)

I've done media fasts before: no reading, no radio, no television, no internet. After a few days I see things differently. It helps me re-focus on things that really matter.
April 6, 2007 at 22:57 | Unregistered Commenterrsbohn
I used to moan about interruptions - a constant occurrence in my previous role as a secretary in a school. Once I accepted that they were a part of my role and 'valid' work in their own right, it didn't bother me so much. One tip I tried was to stand up when ever a person came in or wanted to talk to me. This helped me to feel more in control - especially as I was then at the same level as the other person.

However I am now in a job where there are no interruptions and almost no work. I find it hard to concentrate on one task all day and would welcome Any interruption, but that is because the work is so boring.

At least it has taught me how I like to work!
Thanks Mark for your excellent insights.

April 6, 2007 at 23:28 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

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