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The Water Cooler


Robby

Chances are good that your office has a “water cooler.” You might not actually have a place where people can get a glass of water, but you almost certainly have a spot where people socialize for a few minutes. It could be a break room, a coffee machine, or a lobby.

There is an advantage to the water cooler: it gives us a place to unwind at work. It’s good to take a break once in a while and relax. But there’s a drawback as well, which is that the water cooler is always available. You can go there at practically anytime and run into someone.

It might seem like a benefit that your company provides a way for you to take breaks. But when the mechanism is completely open-ended, it’s easy to get drawn into the conversation when you have work to do. Even if you only spend a few extra minutes chatting about the big game or a TV show, you will probably return to your desk with a sense of guilt. The water cooler can be a double-edged sword.

Instead, many people find it beneficial to actual schedule their breaks on their calendar. Having a weekly appointment for coffee with a friend at work or a nearby building can give you something to look forward to each day. It also discourages you from taking a random trip to the water cooler and losing half an hour on a random political conversation. Appointments with other people—even if they are social engagements—are also harder to break than just promises to yourself.

Consider scheduling your water cooler time, and do it away from the water cooler! You may discover that you get more done and feel better about yourself when you return.  Have you ever tried scheduling water cooler time away from everyone else?  How did that work?

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About the Blogger: Robby Slaughter is a productivity speaker and expert. He is a principal with a AccelaWork, an Indianapolis consulting firm.

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Mon, March 7 2011 » Technology Tips, Time Management

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