Lately, I have been talking with my clients about taking breaks. How do you take a break when the work piles up and is never-ending? How do you take a break when stopping for a moment creates a rapid-fire panic?
The deal is, we need breaks. They give us room to see and experience things in a new way. Taking breaks increases our creativity and our productivity.
I know it is hard to take a break. I will work nonstop without pausing to go to the bathroom, even if I have to go REAL bad! (I do not recommend this technique. It is bad for your bladder and your concentration.) But, like so many people, I have trouble giving myself the gift of a break.
Sometimes, I feel like I might not start again if I stop working. The only way to get the work done is to keep going. I also feel like I do not deserve a break. Perhaps it’s because I have not completed the work (which is never done). Perhaps because I tell myself, people have it harder than me.
Here is what I have learned. When I stop and take a break from work, I do better work. I enjoy the work and the people I am working with. And if I take breaks, I am less likely to burn out. (It is possible to work so long without taking breaks that you can burn out on the entire sector you work in. I know this because I have done it.)
To avoid burnout and enjoy your work, you need two kinds of breaks.
Short breaks: you need breaks throughout the day.
Eat lunch away from your desk. Take a quick walk around the block. Stand up and move away from your desk.
Long breaks: three or more days in a row completely off and away from work.
Plan for long weekends or even a week or two out of the office and as much as possible away from your electronics. More here about preparing for a longer break with less stress.
If you do not take breaks, you will lose the enjoyment of your work. You will not do great work for your clients or customers. You will stop caring. You will wonder why you started doing the work in the first place, and you will lose connection to your passion. You will dislike the people you work with. You will be a harder person to be around, and it will be tough on your loved ones.
Is it worth it to take a break?
You can start today. If you are at work, take a look at today’s schedule. When can you take a break today? When can you get up and step away from your desk? What could you do to take a short break? Can you stretch? Stroll around the block? Eat lunch in a different part of the building, or even in a park?
Okay, now look at your calendar for the next several weeks and months. Do you have a break scheduled in the next few months? A day off on either side of a weekend? A week away? If you don’t have a break coming up, schedule one? If you do not have any vacation time available right now, can you make sure you leave work right on time a few days a week and not touch your work after you get home?
It is your responsibility to build in your breaks. It takes discipline. Those of us in the U.S. do not take breaks.
Somewhere along the line, we swallowed the myth that nonstop work leads to success. It doesn’t. It leads to exhaustion and a lack of passion.
Take care of yourself. It is beautiful out. Take a break.
(Stay tuned. Next week I will post the steps to taking a short break.)