Feeling a little tired? A tad burnt out lately? Like you’ve been slogging through the mud for days now? It’s possible that you just need a break. There’s no shame in that.
Why would there be?
Because society is weird. That’s why.
Society and the world at large tell you that you need to be pushing 100% at all times. And that if you’re not, you’re failing. But it’s not just society. Your inner dialogue is probably just as judgemental as the outer world is to you and your needs.
That’s silly though.
Look, if you’re reading this, take it as a sign that you need to take a break. Now, I’m going to spend the rest of this post rationalizing it for you so that you can walk away from it with the confidence and motivation to take one.
I just need a break from everything for a little while
Ya, I feel you. I’ve been there. I know what it feels like.
It’s not a matter of disliking how you’re spending your time, although that could certainly be the case. It’s more one of needing to recharge every so often.
Of taking a day off from the gym, or work, or reading, or whatever it is that you want to take a break from. I’ve taken breaks in all shapes and manners. From a five minute cool-down to a week of not-dealing-with-it, I’m no stranger to rest.
Take QuickBooost for instance (what you’re reading right now).
I’ve spoken at length about how much I enjoy working on it, but sometimes I need space; some time away from this thing that I love so that I can regroup and consider things from a different perspective. So that’s what I do.
It works for me.
That’s just one example. I also have a new baby who is awesome, but incredibly exhausting. That’s a little bit trickier of a break to figure out – but it is possible. It’s one of those things where I have to ask for help and lean on those around me.
It takes a village, right?
Even if it’s only for an hour so that I can squeeze in a nap, taking the time to make those arrangements has been absolutely critical to giving my wife and me the rest we need (shout out to the grandparents!).
Now, I’m fortunate to have a support system close by. It would be much harder to create those kinds of breaks without it and I have a tremendous amount of appreciation for those that don’t have that kind of help.
Either way, there is value to be gained in creating time for rest in your hectic life.
It may take some creativity, it may require you to ask for some assistance from others, but the hassle of making that time for yourself is worth the benefit you’ll gain.
How taking a break will increase your productivity
To help prove my point, back in 2017 MIT wrote up a story detailing the power behind taking breaks. In it, they concluded that working for around 60-90 minutes followed by a 15-20 minute break created numerous productivity benefits like:
- Better information retention
- Refreshed focus
- And actually getting more done throughout the day
Breaks are important in all capacities.
That could mean getting up from your computer to go for a walk with a coworker, or taking a nap when you get home instead of working on that new blog post. You’ll notice though that there are almost two kinds of breaks you can take: small and large.
A small break would be like something I mentioned above – getting up from your computer after an hour, spending a few minutes meditating, and then getting back to work.
It’s a small break.
A large break is looking more at the big picture. It’s getting home from work and recognizing that you’ve been training hard for a marathon each day for the last month and need to take a day off. So you take the day off from running, rest, and return to your training the next day with regained enthusiasm and energy.
Both are breaks, both are good for you.
In my day-to-day productivity, I find taking breaks between tasks to be very helpful.
For instance, I’ll start writing something in the morning, then work on something else for a few hours, and then finish writing in the afternoon with a new effectiveness. It’s a small break.
Additionally, every few months if I feel like I’ve been pushing considerably hard, I’ll take a few days off from QuickBooost so that I can reset. Then after those few days, I’ll come back to it with a jolt of energy, excitement, and productiveness. It’s a large break.
Now, one thing you should consider before embarking on a break-taking journey is…
Are you doing it for the right reasons?
Need a break? Or need to do the work?
No judgment here. Trust me. But, I do need to mention that breaks should be taken for that very reason – to give yourself a break from working so hard. To give you the time and space to reset and get ready to tackle the challenges in front of you once again.
However, there is a scenario where your wanting to take a break is actually procrastination or laziness disguised as fatigue.
Procrastination is putting something off because it’s difficult. Being lazy is putting something off because you’re content with doing nothing at all. Neither one of these scenarios though will resolve themselves by you taking a break.
For example, if you’ve been putting off working on a report all morning, taking 30 minutes to “clear your head” isn’t going to help you at all or increase your productivity in any way. What you need to do is buckle down and do the work. It’s that simple.
On the other hand, if you’ve been working on that report straight for three weeks and are completely exhausted, taking a personal day may just give you the break you need to reset your productivity levels.
So before deciding whether or not to take a break, consider if you’re actually just being lazy or procrastinating.
What to do if you need a break from life, work, or anything else
You’ve decided that yes, you need a break. You’re not procrastinating, you’re not being lazy, you’ve been putting in the time and need to take a breather.
Well, where do you start?
What’s the best way to make this break thing happen and ensure that you get the benefit out of it that you need? Here are some tips to follow.
Need a break? Give yourself permission
I know this sounds kind of silly, but for my fellow type A’s out there, you probably know all too well how hard it is to turn off. To stop doing and just relax.
So to actually get value out of this break, you need to give yourself permission to take it.
For me, that looks like telling myself that, while I would love to keep pushing, by taking a break now I will be that much more productive with my time later today, or tomorrow, or whenever I intend on getting back to it.
In the moment, it can be difficult to accept it, but I know that future Corey is benefiting from the break that present Corey is taking.
Need a break? Understand what you need to take a break from
This may seem obvious, but a little self reflection never hurt anyone. So before you take a break, recognize what it is that you need to take a break from.
That way, you can devise a plan that helps you get the most bang for your productive buck (more on that below).
So ask yourself: what is it that you need to take a break from?
- Swimming laps?
- Need a mental break from all that chess you’ve been playing?
- A specific project?
- Your commute?
Need a break? Devise a plan for it
Once you know what you need a break from, you can create a plan to help you maximize the amount of rest you want to take. For instance:
- Do you want to take a break from tracking calories and just veg out?
- Are you running low on sleep and plan on skipping the weights so that you can take a nap?
What does a successful break look like to you? Envision it and then consider when you want to take it. It could be right now or next week. It could be for five minutes or five days.
Need a break? Take it and do nothing else!
Finally, and this may just be the most important point I make, when you are taking a break do not return to the thing that you are breaking from!
What does that mean?
It means that if you’re taking a day off from work because of an exhausting project, don’t work on that project from home. If you’re taking a break from lifting weights, don’t spend your afternoon doing push ups. If you’re taking 15 minutes away from your desk to chat with a coworker, don’t check your work email from your phone.
Give yourself the chance to get the reset you need.
Because by taking a break and by giving yourself the chance to get refreshed, you will be able to return to those tasks with renewed productivity and effectiveness.
Give yourself the chance to miss whatever it is that you’re breaking from.
One thing you may want to consider is sustainability. And by that I mean, is there a way to create a better system that wears you down less so that you require fewer breaks?
For instance, if you constantly have to take days off from running because your knees are falling apart, is there a different form of exercise that you can do more consistently?
Or if you keep taking breaks on your reading goal, is there maybe a different kind of book that you could read that would be more enjoyable and less of a drag for you? Or if that work project is draining, is there a way you can ask for help or delegate some of the responsibilities so that you don’t have to burn through your sick days?
Consider if there is a way to make whatever is taxing you more sustainable so that you can maintain your productivity even longer and require fewer interruptions.
It’s about balance. Balancing work and play, education and application, social and introspection, rest and action. Think if your current situation is one that may be misaligned and how, with a few tweaks, can be made less fatiguing.
Taking breaks moving forward
Don’t be afraid to take a break when you need it. Refuse to let the judgments of others or yourself prevent you from giving yourself the care you need.
Recognize when you are feeling low energy or unproductive and devise a plan that will help you regain that momentum. Give yourself permission to take that break and, when you are resting, fight the urge to do the thing you are breaking from.
Consider if there is a way to make that task more sustainable in the future. If there is, put steps into place to make it happen.
Breaks are powerful. They help you regain your motivation, energy, and overall productivity. Take them when you need them and experience the benefits that rest will bring.