How could something as natural as rest require courage? Consider for a moment how you felt the last time you left the office early and walked past your coworkers or boss who were likely going to spend several more hours at their desks. Or when you stepped out for a walk during lunch on a nice day while everyone else was eating at their desk and answering email. How about when you realized you just needed a day to yourself and struggled to come up with a ‘good reason’ to reschedule your meetings? Although we often recognize the need for a break, it takes courage not to let guilt and fear interfere.
Recharge During the Day
How often do you leave work at the end of the day completely exhausted? When you are sapped of energy, it can be very difficult to do much more than pick up dinner from a drive-through window and collapse on the couch. Many of us have so much more time in our evenings than we realize, but we simply don’t have any energy left to take advantage of it.
Racing throughout our day without taking any time to stop, breathe, settle our minds and move our bodies means we don’t have the energy to enjoy the second part of our day. Although none of us are physically chained to our chairs, we often forget to stand up or step away and keep pushing ourselves for hours desperately trying to get more done. We eat at our desks while multitasking, race between back-to-back meetings and spend our nights and weekends trying to catch up.
Mental Health Breaks
The longer we spend working 50, 60 or 70-hour weeks especially considering how many of those hours are occurring during our nights and weekends, the more difficult it is to pull ourselves out of the day-to-day chaos and spend time thinking, planning and recharging. At least, that is what we tell ourselves. Imagine for a moment that a family member or close friend came to you and said they really needed your help for a day. Most of us would rearrange our schedules and find a way to make it work. If we can make time for others, why is it so hard to do the same for ourselves when we realize we just need a day to recover?
When we leave our calendar open to any meeting or appointment others want to schedule, we find ourselves struggling to be productive with the slivers of time remaining. Spending a full day in meetings means accumulating hours of extra work. How often do you block a few hours each week to ‘GSD’ (Get Stuff Done)? Or block a few Fridays several weeks in advance just so you can discover the gift of time?
PTO = Pretend Time Off
Most people say there doesn’t seem to be any good time to take a break, so they end up taking PTO…‘pretend time off’. They spend the first few days of vacation finishing all the tasks that didn’t get done before leaving the office, and the last few days catching up from being ‘off’. And, of course, there are always ‘just a few’ emails and conference calls that can’t possibly wait until they return. As a result, they return from vacation feeling like they need another vacation.
It takes courage to delegate. Or to communicate to clients, coworkers and managers that you are unavailable for a week so you can enjoy time with your family. Or to admit to yourself that by not taking an actual break, you are decreasing your productivity over the long-term. Have you ever received an out of office message from someone that indicated they were completely unavailable and would get back to you when they returned, and wished you could do the same?
We all need real vacations. Instead of packing our schedules with meetings the days before and after our scheduled vacations, imagine how much more you could relax if you had those days blocked to prepare and recover. If the thought of a full week off causes you anxiety, try blocking a day or two each month that you can use to recharge. The time won’t magically appear when you need it, so take a look at your calendar now and start blocking a few days.
On a daily basis, something as simple as standing up and walking around for 5-10 minutes can help your brain and body reset and refuel. Studies show a 6-minute walk outside can boost creativity and productivity up to 60%! Not convinced? Try it once a day for a week and see for yourself. You’ll be shocked at how much more work you get done in a day.
Author: Becky Jacobs, Chief Engagement Officer