I love taking breaks. Well, I say that, but then I’m in the midst of a blog post or in the middle of something interesting and it just seems that time flies by and I’ll take a break in five more minutes. Fifteen. The next hour…
And I never do.
It’s one of the benefits of loving what you do.
But then it creeps up on me. Getting sick, resenting other people, snapping at someone for no particular reason. Now I don’t just need a break, I need a day. I need a few days. Suddenly my vacation isn’t fun, it’s all just time away from everyone. It’s not doing anything awesome, it’s just vegging.
And that’s fine, but there are better ways to take breaks.
Taking a Break From a Task You DON’T Like
The only, and I mean only, way I get to exercise with any regularity is by promising myself that I will take a break. After X many reps or Y amount of time on the treadmill I’m going to check my email, I’m going to have some water, I’m going to look out the window for a full minute—I have to do something that gets me to the other side. Looking at “going to the gym” as spending an hour doing nothing but exercising would just give me more of an excuse to stay home. Same thing with doing my taxes or cleaning my apartment. I need to know that a break is coming in order to be productive. Otherwise, I’ll feel like Oliver Twist in the workhouse. I need something to look forward to. I need to know that I’m going to take a break. And I need to take small steps to get there.
Don’t make this a far away break: once I get done with work today I’m going to meet my friends at the bar. That’s fine, that can keep you going, but I want you to think in smaller bite size chunks. In a half hour you’re going to walk to another cubicle and talk to your co-worker. In fifteen minutes you’re going to [fill in the blank].
Taking a Break From Something You LOVE
It’s just as important to take a break from something you love to do, too. With this you’re not using the break to propel you through an unwanted task, you’re using it to re-center yourself. We always need to come back to ourselves and being lost in that wonderful rabbit hole of something you are excited to do is great, but you need to check in. How’s your posture? Do you need to call your partner? Check on the kids? Make food?–Yes, you need to eat regularly and well or you will not have the sustained energy to keep doing what you love to do.
I’d even suggest working in a nap for yourself if you have that kind of freedom. Preferably 20-minutes, I believe, is what’s good, but there’s more information out there about the type of nap and which one is the best for the time of day (some help with memory, some help with just rest, etc.).
With that, put your mobile device on “Do Not Disturb” (or Airplane mode—if you dare!) and shut your laptop. Do something mindless and come back to whatever it is you’re working on.
Your productivity and creativity brain will thank you for it.
Want some help on breaking difficult habits? Please get in contact with me and schedule a free 15-minute consultation.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been working in family and men’s counseling for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.