Disconnect to Decompress: Why You Need to Take Time For Yourself

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Pursuing an MBA degree online can allow for flexibility in your daily life. It can also mean that you’ll spend much of your time linked to electronic devices and the internet, using them to access coursework and communicate with professors and fellow students.

Connection and technology are invaluable, but should be balanced with time off the grid. Research indicates that delaying technology use in the morning, handwriting notes, or taking a lunchtime walk can help MBA students be more productive during work and study time.

Here are five suggestions on ways to disconnect, at least temporarily, and why unplugging can help you become more productive:

1 – Delay Powering Up In The Morning

Checking email or social media as soon as your eyes open is tempting. However, the practice can derail your best-laid plans, as you lose focus and become captive to whatever action items your inbox and newsfeed hold.

To center yourself and prepare for the day ahead, consider waiting to check your devices until after breakfast. Instead, try taking a walk or meditating.

Before you first log on, have a sense of what you would like to accomplish for the day. In addition to mapping out your “To Do” list, consider creating a “To Ignore” list as well. For instance, ignore email alerts and specify a time to check your email. Review this list occasionally to make sure that nothing is distracting you from the reason you’re online in the first place.

2 – Write It Down To Retain It

Typing notes on your laptop may seem efficient, but you probably aren’t doing yourself any favors. In a study titled “The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking,” researchers from Princeton and UCLA concluded that students who take written notes often outperform those who take notes electronically.

The reasons aren’t entirely clear, but researchers point to the difference in speed between typing notes and writing them. Writing by hand is more time consuming, which forces students to synthesize and summarize information – which means they retain concepts better, rather than simply quoting back information verbatim. Therefore, opt for pen and paper and give your typing fingers a break for better results.

3 – Head Outside For Some Vitamin D

According to researchers at Harvard, nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Scientists now believe there may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and many chronic ailments, including osteoporosis, heart disease, some cancers, and multiple sclerosis, as well as infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and seasonal flu.

While researchers don’t point to a specific cause for vitamin D deficiency, a 15-minute walk in the sunshine can give you your daily dose and potentially spare you from health problems down the road.

4 – Walk At Lunch To Improve Your Mood and Reduce Stress

Closing the laptop to head outside can give you more than just a little daylight. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by classes, a noontime stroll may be the best medicine.

Walking on a regular basis, even for half an hour, makes people feel better and improves their ability to handle stress, according to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Though the researchers studied office workers, the findings hold true for MBA students as well.

5 – Unplug To Accomplish More

Powering through a long study session or writing a paper without taking a break may be tempting, but studies show that this may actually impair productivity. Working in small, concentrated chunks of time and scheduling breaks can lead to greater concentration.

The theory, set forth by Drake Baer in his article “Why You Need to Unplug Every 90 Minutes,” postulates that the brain can only focus for 90 to 120 minutes at a time. To harness the power of breaks, give the Pomodoro Technique a try: work for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break. After four such sessions, take a 30-minute break. Setting an alarm or planning your calendar accordingly can be a helpful reminder to step away for a scheduled breather.

Though the notion may seem counterintuitive, spending some time off the grid is good for your health and actually helps you be a better student. Unplugging, going for a walk and otherwise taking a break can help you maintain the balance necessary to be productive and successful in your MBA program.

About WSU’s Online MBA Degree Program

Washington State University offers one of the nation’s top online MBA programs, combining traditional university education with the convenience and flexibility afforded by an online format with advanced technology. The program offers four concentrations that reflect growing sectors of the economy – Finance, Hospitality Business Management, International Business, and Marketing – as well as a General Track. For more information, visit WSU’s online MBA website.


Becoming Minimalist:

We Are Teachers:

Mind Manager Blog:


The New York Times:

Fast Company:

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health:

Reference: Mueller, P. A., & Oppenheimer, D. M. (2014). The pen is mightier than the keyboard: Advantages of longhand over laptop note taking. Psychological Science, 25, 1159-1168.