Take Time Away from Work
It may seem contrary to say, but one of the biggest success factors for optimal work performance is actually taking time away from work. Countless studies have shown the effects of improved productivity and creativity when we take breaks regularly. But that’s sometimes hard to do. I know, because I’m someone who tends to work through her lunch breaks in order to get more done and check email throughout her short vacations so that I don’t have as much catch-up to play upon my return. So I need this topic as much as anyone else, I’d say.
Most of us are very dedicated to our work, whether we work in the home or in an office. That’s part of what makes us so good at what we do, and it’s an admirable trait. In fact, given the choice, most employers would rather hire someone who’s highly dedicated than one that’s not. But part of that dedication should include taking time away so that we can do our best work. It’s not only important to our work, it’s important to our sanity and our sense of balance. I just returned from my first-ever, two-week vacation to California and Arizona. I didn’t check my work email once. I can’t tell you how renewed I feel as I return to work today, and I’m sure that my work will be better for it. I promise you that whatever your job is, you’ll be better at it for taking time away to rejuvenate.
You don’t need to take two weeks’ vacation like I did to feel the benefits. Try any or all of the following to take a bit of time away to recharge:
Take 10-15 minute breaks every 4 hours. This is mandated by some labor laws, but even if you’re self-employed you can make this a practice. Take a quick walk, unplug, read a book, call a friend—do something for that 10-15 minutes that has nothing to do with work. Enjoy that time, and see what a difference it makes after doing it regularly for a week.
Take a lunch break. Even if your lunch break is only 20 minutes, take time away from your work to eat and enjoy your lunch. Try it regularly this week, and you’ll see improvements in your digestion, your blood sugar, and your mood.
Be off in your off hours. Unplug from work mode when you’re off work. Take time to develop interests and do things that pull your mind away from work, such as catching a movie, going out with friends, or taking a class on a non-work-related topic. If you work from home, make sure you leave your house for a few hours a week in your off time to engage your brain in a different setting. If the bulk of your work is on a computer, unplug for a bit when you’re off to make sure you’re re-energized in different ways. Don’t check your work email or work on projects related to work. Really be off for a week to see what difference it makes to your mood and your work performance.
Take a vacation. Whether it’s a week-long trip to a location you haven’t visited or a few-day stay-cation around town, take some extended time away from work to see how it helps re-energize you.
This week, try one or more of these ideas to take time away from work. I promise it will help you improve your sanity and your work performance. Then please share your experiences and insights with us in a comment.