“Every person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
— Maya Angelou
Most of us work hard at what we do and we may push ourselves to the limit in order to build a company, brand a reputation, receive an award, or make money. Sometimes, however, we encounter serious problems physically, mentally, and even relationally because we aren’t making the best decisions. When that happens, everything seems to suffer.
As a person who aims to make some difference in the world, we don’t want to be seen as nonproductive or feel like we’re not doing enough. The result is that we work and work to the neglect of our health and our standards of excellence. Most important ideas come to us in quietness and a mind that is calm is one of our greatest weapons.
A large part of life is learning the balance between work and play, action and thinking, doing and being. We obtain balance when we know how and when to take a break for maximum effectiveness. Here are 9 reasons it is okay to take a break:
1. When important decisions need to be made. In life, hopefully, not many decisions will be life or death. But when you face an especially important moment of decision, it is important to step back, take a deep breath, and analyze all the information to make sure you are making the best decision. Sometimes, our judgment can be clouded when there are many things on the table. Making a decision and making it right requires that we focus on that one thing and put our best foot forward.
2. When you are under stress and starting to frazzle. As much as we would like to think we are, we are not super-human. All people need a break from time to time in order to regroup, rethink a situation, or simply to refresh the mind. Taking the time away from your regular obligations and daily work load is a good investment in yourself. Instead of getting crushed by the circumstances and overwhelmed by the projects begging to be done, taking the time to practice self-care instead of letting everything drive you over the edge can help you to become physically stronger and obtain mental clarity.
3. When you are sick. There are a good number of studies that suggest sleep, exercise, rest and overall physical care are important to productivity and consistent mental stability. As much as you may love to make money or receive accolades for your achievements, your health is more important. Without good health, it is unlikely that you will function at your highest capacity.
4. When you can no longer focus. If you find yourself staring at your computer screen, mindlessly surfing the internet, reading through tons of social media posts, or playing the latest game on your smartphone, you are probably not able to focus on what you are supposed to be doing. Being able to focus is crucial to doing good work and getting good work to completion. A lack of focus will reflect on your performance and people may begin to wonder whether you have a passion for what you’re doing.
5. When you start making minor mistakes. When we work too much, after a certain point, our brains tend to slow down or shut down altogether. The result of this is minor mistakes that we would not otherwise make. For example, if you regularly catch typos in the most informal of email messages and you are no longer doing that, you might need to take a break. Everyone can understand a mistake every now and then, but small mistakes that are made on a frequent basis can pile up and turn into much larger catastrophes.
6. When you are irritable and hard to get along with. We all have bad days every once in a while. But if you’re in a perpetual funk where the usual behaviors and attitudes of people tick you off and send you into overdrive, you may need to give yourself a vacation. If the thought of waking up in the morning to do your daily routine puts you in a bad mood before anything even happens or anyone even says anything then you know you need to take a break from the expectations of others and even yourself, give your duties a rest, and refresh so you can return with a more cooperative attitude.
7. When you start neglecting important things. When you need to take a break, everything tends to suffer. If you are so focused on one thing that your spouse feels unimportant or your children are neglected or you don’t take the time to spend with close friends or on your favorite hobbies, you are running on low fumes. This means you don’t have energy or time for the other things and people in your life that should matter to you. And when we don’t pay attention to the things that matter to us, we end up losing them.
8. When you are no longer making progress. We don’t always have it figured out at the start. There is often only enough light for the step we’re on. Taking a break might be necessary for you to rethink your priorities and goals and make sure you are actually doing the things that will help you accomplish those goals. This does not give you permission to give up just because results are not coming as fast as you would like. We all can sense when something is not working. When we take the time to actively think about our life, we may find that we need to make some changes in order to get down the right path.
9. When you are start being willing to compromise on anything. Plenty of well-meaning people get into trouble because in a moment of burnout, they decided to bend the rules, compromise integrity, or cheat. In college and upper-level high school courses, some students throw all their smarts away because they get behind in a class, procrastinate on assignments, and in order to get it done, they plagiarize a paper or cheat on a test. Take a break before you do something that is unethical or immoral. This will allow you to think through what you are doing and what you are about to do. There is always a way out and it is not through cheating or lying. One bad decision can ruin your reputation for the rest of your life.
Taking a break does not mean you are lazy or that you don’t want to work. It means you are smart and willing to take the necessary time to rethink, regroup and refresh now so you won’t end up stressed, burned-out, and struggling later.
“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.”
— Alan Cohen