When life gets busy, the first thing to go is downtime. We find ourselves too overscheduled to even fit in a break. We think that if we just work longer or rush through all the things we have going on, then we’ll finally be able to take some time to ourselves later. But does later ever happen?
As a society, we tend to hold a somewhat negative view of breaks. For many, they’re considered to be a sign of weakness—while working on through lunch, we feel, is indicative of a successful and motivated person—someone who’s going places!
While it is important to work hard and to be able to buckle down and get things done, it’s equally important to know how to put your work to the side and allow yourself some time off. Giving yourself a chance to breathe is exactly what’s needed to help you recharge your batteries. You’re likely to come back motivated and ready to work with a renewed perspective.
Here are three benefits of taking a break—even when you think you’re too busy!
1. Gaining Perspective
When we’re constantly working on a project or problem it can be difficult to find focus and easy to lose sight of our purpose. Taking a break, though, allows us to take a step back and look at things from a broader perspective—vital for ensuring that we haven’t lost sight of the big picture.
According to Harvard Business Review, “When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve.”
By taking a break, we can step back to ensure that we are accomplishing what we want to—and determine whether we’re doing this in the best way possible.
2. Empowering Your Mind
Our brains have two modes: focused mode and diffuse mode. Focused mode is what we use when we are busy working or studying, when we have applied ourselves and are focused on accomplishing a task. Diffuse mode is what occurs when we’re off work, or spending time with family or friends. It’s the daydreaming mode that our minds seem to drift to when we’re relaxed.
Studies have shown that the mind can actually solve more problems and achieve more while in the diffused state than when in the focused mode. When our brain is left to wander, there is activity in many different regions of our brains that often lead us to have profound thoughts or ideas. This explains why we often have the best ideas in the shower!
So if you’re working on a difficult project, or trying to solve a problem, taking a break and allowing your mind to get into diffuse mode could be what’s needed for you to come up with a creative solution.
3. Improving Focus
When we’re in the flow and working, we feel great—but that stretch of time doesn’t last forever. Once you get out of that productivity zone, you can easily feel unfocused.
This is because our brains have a difficult time focusing on one thing for an extended period of time. When we’ve reached our peak of productivity, a short interruption in concentration is oftentimes exactly what’s needed to help us stay on track.
The next time you feel guilty for taking a break or think that you don’t have time, push that thought far from your mind! Taking breaks doesn’t signify weakness. Instead, it’s a sign that you know what’s best and are able to accomplish things in the most efficient way possible.
P.S. Map out your schedule (and your break time!) with Day Designer—the strategic planner and daily agenda for living a well-designed life.