Frequently I’m so energized and focused on my work that time has a way of slipping away. I love when that happens. They call that sense of being in the zone “flow.” It feels like the only thing that matters is what I am doing right now. I am fully present. Time is on my side. It’s when I do my best work.
There’s another feeling that I sometimes experience where time feels like it is slipping away and I am working frantically to keep up. It too keeps me focused, but often times I’m actually just chasing my tail. Rather than energizing me, working this way sucks the life of me. It keeps my head down and focused, but not in a happy way.
Recently I was in a meeting with several managers when the conversation suddenly took an interesting turn. They were all lamenting the demands of work and feeling quite overwhelmed with the tasks before them – so overwhelmed, that they weren’t even taking the time to drink water or take potty breaks. In a way, it makes perfect sense that if you weren’t doing the former, the later wouldn’t be necessary. This wasn’t a one day freak happening. It was more like a way of working for all of them. In fact, for one gal this habit led to a kidney infection. Now that’s serious!
I get that there are ridiculously demanding moments; even some ridiculously demanding jobs, but when you resist taking care of yourself, it will ultimately backfire and cost you dearly. Let’s just say that you don’t do your best work when you are under the weather. And you don’t do your best work when you are stressed, exhausted, and pushing yourself too hard.
The temptation is to buckle down and work like crazy when you have a lot on your plate. And that’s just what it is – crazy! Without breaks and moments of pause to regroup, gain perspective, prioritize, and consider creative solutions, you will actually operate in a counterproductive way. That’s a whole lot of wasted energy!
Back in the 70’s (I know – I’ve been around a while!) McDonald’s did a catchy ad campaign with a memorable ditty that also sported some equally memorable fashions. It wrapped up declaring…
You deserve a break today!
So get up and get away!
To McDonald’s! McDonald’s! McDonald’s! “You deserve a break today!
Now, I am not advocating for McDonald’s, despite their attempts to provide healthier food, but I am encouraging you keep that jingle fresh in your mind while you’re working! Let it remind you to get up and take a break. It doesn’t have to be long, just a chance to stretch, move, and perhaps experience fresh scenery. Breaks are like food for your brain; a necessity to function at your best.
Today, I want to share with you some of the dangers of neglecting to take breaks. You really are worth it!
1. Health Hazards
If you have a desk job, or tend to sit for long stretches, beware – sitting is the new smoking! A good way to guarantee you will have health challenges ahead.
Did you know that when you sit your muscles are in a state of disuse? That means your muscles aren’t contracting and helping your body to regulate many of the body’s metabolic processes leading to heart disease, diabetes, and other health issues according to David Dunstan, a professor at Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, Australia. That means even when you are relaxing, getting up and moving periodically makes sense!
So move! Go outside! Nature is incredibly calming. No sanctuary outside? At the very least switch your environment.
2. Risk Becoming Dull
All work and no play make you one dimensional. While you might think you are the model of a dedicated worker, your work may actually be suffering along with your relationships with coworkers, family, and friends.
Taking regular breaks just might improve the quality of your work, demonstrate that you know how to manage you, and preserve your relationships. Breaks don’t need to take up a big chunk of time. In fact, longer breaks actually leave you less refreshed.
3. Diminished Creativity & Productivity
It’s hard to be creative when you’re running on empty. You might be surprised with the fresh insights that come to mind when you step away and take a break. Even a 15 minute leisurely stroll to the restroom and back can do the trick. (Hint, hint to my manager friends!)
Time to pull away, breathe, and check in with yourself can reignite your creativity and allow you to come up with ideas and solutions you might not have arrived at if you had tried to power it out. Those brilliant solutions aid your productivity too!
Other break possibilities to fuel you? What about spending 15-30 minutes to…
- Take a walking
- Read a book
- Close your eyes and listen to music (with your headphones of course, or in your car)
- Grab some Z’s
- Work on a crossword or sudoku puzzle
- Browse through a magazine
- Dance – Yep! If you are alone, turn on a happy tune and go for it!
- Sip a coffee, tea, or kombucha – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/8-benefits-of-kombucha-tea#section9
No more skipping lunch! Not only does it fuel you physically, it fuels you in other creative ways as well. I promise, you will get more accomplished when you take lunch.
4. Negative Perspective
Not taking the time to take breaks can make you feel resentful; like your work is running you rather than you dictating your work. That’s not a happy feeling. Taking breaks not only helps you feel more in control, it gives you a chance to put life in perspective, allowing you to be much more positive. Odds are the cranky ones in your office are the ones who don’t take breaks. Just saying.
You weren’t meant to perpetually work and when you do it is taxing. What IS a realistic expectation for yourself when it comes to work? Stress is felt when reality and your expectations are not lining up.
Let’s just say if you’re stressed, negative, lacking creativity, and all the other points I’ve previously made, you’re going to be prone to making mistakes.
7. Harmful Habit
Working through breaks, lunches, etc. starts out because a deadline is fast approaching for a really important project that requires you to work through this break, then this lunch, and before you know it working through breaks is a habit. You may have been habitually skipping breaks and lunches for so long you don’t even remember what made you do it the first time. And I bet that habit is affecting other areas – our habits have a way of doing that!
Eating lunch at your desk, that’s not taking a break. To fully break you need a change of environment so step away from your desk or your construction project or whatever it is that you do and enjoy the benefits of a happier, healthier, habit that will enhance your ability to work too!
Who wants to be forced to take breaks in order to visit a doctor for conditions like kidney infections? I prefer breaks that are a whole lot more fun than that, how about you?
What keeps you from taking breaks? How is that affecting your work?
If you are in the habit of taking breaks, how do you like to spend them? How do breaks benefit you?