I am thankful for you today, a Monday that I do not have to go to work.  My hope for today would be that I let go of all the anxiety that usually accompanies a day off.  I will focus on my family and my crafts.

While there is still work to be doing this week, may I find rest knowing that I can get to it without sacrificing sacred family time? May I find that my mind can share space with the “to dos” and the “want to” and enjoy this week.  I have worked so very hard this year, and I give myself the freedom to take it easy, slow and have some quality family time.

Monday, I welcome you.

It’s been quite a week off from work. I can’t remember the last time that I did this.  Usually, I’m a hot mess when I take time.  I’m usually concerned about what is needed, what is left undone and what continues to pile up while I’m out.

Very little rest or enjoyment is found in my breaks, often feeling that they caused me to get even further behind. But that is because I was taking them wrong and I didn’t appreciate what breaks and time off could do for my productivity and job satisfaction levels.

Very little resting or enjoyment is usually found in my breaks, often times feeling that they caused me to get even further behind. But that is because I was taking them wrong and I wasn’t appreciating what breaks and time off could really do for my productivity and satisfaction levels.

Draining limited and necessary cognitive resources

When we power through lunches, the day, weeks, months and the year without breaks of time off, we are depleting our limited cognitive resources. Allison Gabriel, an assistant professor of management at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies job demands and employee motivation reminds us that, “When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”

Instead, we need to understand that most things in life are cyclical. Even our sleeping habits, exemplified in the phases of REM sleep.  Similar to physical drain when we don’t allow our bodies time to rest and sleep, we create a cognitive strain when we don’t allow our minds breaks and time off.

We continue to add stress to our cognitive resources, which in turn make it hard to focus, hard to work efficiently and affect our mood,  the top items that also, in turn, create job satisfaction and top performance.

Poor performance and job satisfaction will continue to create further strain and stress on our cognitive functions. Taking a break allows us when done properly, to shut our cognitive computers down and reboot when we’ve had time to recharge. When we are recharged, we work happier, better and faster, avoiding altogether the burnout and drain on productivity.

Properly taking breaks and downtime

 

1. Plan the break and the return back to work effectively.

Taking a break just for the sake of it does little, save for distracting us from our piles of work for the next several hours. And making sure we aren’t wasting time on our break is important to our need for fulfillment and satisfaction in our day.So make sure you plan what kind of break you can afford and what type of break you are going to be taking.Do you need to shut down for the day?

Or do you just need a 5 – 15 min brain booster? Get in tune with your natural rhythm and your productivity will increase as you work with your mind and body rather than against it.Sometimes I power through lunch, and other times I need a brisk walk around the office every couple of hours.

Even still, I often find myself looking for a break and decide that I need to be done with the day. However, that means me getting to the office the next day at 4:00 am.

I do it because I will be able to work more productivity than slaving away for four hours after the kids go to sleep. Sometimes, enough is enough for the day, and you have to get up and fight harder the next day.  Just make sure that you get back on it after the break.

2. Shut down, but fill the space with something that you enjoy.

Taking a 15 min break at work but still responding to emails or knocks at our office door, is not taking a break, it’s merely opening you up to distractions. When you take a break, literally and figuratively you have to break away from that which you are breaking.Also, think about what kind of break truly gets you revved back up again.

Because the focus of a break is not to derail your day or your zone, it’s to help you get back into with increased focus, accuracy and excitement. Creating this kind of break that produces that outcome is different for different people.

And often different depending on the day and our moods. For me, some days I need a small break to meditate or to think through an issue, and often a break to schedule no thinking at all. And yet other times my breaks from work are to sit down and write.

Write helps me to explain the world around me and I am often inspired or rejuvenated afterward. Still, for a friend of mine, her break is playing with her dog. Whatever it is, think about what type of break you need to get back into the swing of things afterward and how long of a break do you need?

3. Work with your boss and company culture instead of against it

I hate writing this in here because not everyone is fortunate enough to have a boss that rewards hard work with flexibility. Some bosses micro-manage even the best employees and would flip at the notion of catching you on your five min walk around the office.However, we have to work with our boss and company culture not against it.

As with everything, perception often trumps reality, so you have to be mindful of not only when breaks work for you, but when they work best for those that are responsible for cutting your paychecks.I have found that often this means proving that the productivity is consistent first and then more liberties are given.

I often tend to take notice of other’s downtime and allow myself flexibility to work within those schedules. It’s often hard for the boss to yell at you about your walk when he’s fixing his coffee or leaning against the water cooler.

However, you have to work your schedule, do make sure that you include downtime to recharge your senses, focus, inspiration, and excitement. Your mind will thank you for increasing productivity.