We all know that feeling when you’re trying so hard to get some work done but your head has stopped co-operating, is a bit bleary, and isn’t working as efficiently as you know it usually does. But you try to ‘push through it’ anyway, even though it takes so much longer to get the job done.

Well, STOP! That’s your conscious mind telling you it’s saturated and needs a break. At this point you need to distract your conscious. The good news is that all the while, whilst you’re consciously working, your subconscious is ticking over in the background. It does this 24/7 (hence you dream when sleeping) so whilst your conscious is distracted, you have effectively handed over the reins of your work to your subconscious.

How often do you come up with a new perspective on a problem when you’re driving, are in the shower or simply making a cuppa? That’s what’s happening – you’re distracting your conscious mind, allowing your subconscious to get on with it.

When you take information in from the world around you as you’re experiencing it, your conscious mind filters it, causing distortions, deletions and generalisations as we make sense of it based on our experiences in life to date. But your subconscious stores and deals with the ‘raw’ data and so when seeking solutions, it’s drawing from a wider pool of information.

Your distraction can be anything: exercise, reading, TV, a walk or anything really, just as long as it’s not what you were working on (it can even be another aspect of work if you really need it to be!). When you come back to what you needed to get done you will have renewed perspective, focus and enthusiasm and will be able to complete it so much more efficiently.

This is a great persuader for those who suffer from guilt if they aren’t dedicating every minute of every day to work: to know that they are still ‘working’ even when they are focussed on something else really helps them to break away from work overload and get a much healthier work-life balance.

Personally, I’ve given so much power over to my subconscious since discovering this through NLP. I routinely give it homework: if I’ve got a piece of work to do in the near future I familiarise myself with what needs to be done, to kick-start my subconscious, then put it away whilst I go and do something else (over a weekend break for example). By the time you come to start working on it properly, your natural problem solving subconscious has already done some ground work and it is so much easier to pick up and move forward.

So, when your conscious is waving the white flag and saying ‘time out’, listen to it and give yourself that break!

If you found this surprising and reassuring, and you’d like to find out more about how NLP and coaching can help you work smarter by developing more efficient thinking, then get in touch!