When you have an insanely busy week ahead of you, your first instinct may be to make a massive to-do list spanning the professional and the personal. While there's something to be said for getting every task down on paper, researchers from Columbia Business School would add "scheduled relaxation time," or SRT, to your list.
Their research, which was recently published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, actually found that we're much likelier to mentally and physically relax when it is planned in advance, as opposed to sporadically taking mental breaks once we've reached our limit. And the quality of relaxation isn't the only thing that improves; the team also found that we're actually more productive and creative when performing tasks before and after a scheduled mental break.
To arrive at the conclusion, the researchers asked two groups of participants to complete the two same creative tasks. The first group was given a set time to work on each task, with SRT in between, while the other was instructed to work on the two tasks whenever they wanted to during a longer stretch of time. In the end, those with a more structured approach including SRT were more creative, productive, and relaxed while the other group was tenser and less creative.
While scheduled relaxation time may seem like the antithesis of relaxation, think of it this way: If you had a doctor's appointment or needed to take medication for your physical health, you'd likely make a note of it. Scheduled relaxation time is the same idea but for your mental health. "Why shouldn't we assign time to relax, read, meditate, or just sit in the garden and enjoy the peace and quiet?" writes Country Living of the findings. "It's just as beneficial."