2016

Myth 5: I don’t have time for breaks, let alone vacations!

The reality is that you do.

Our best ideas rarely come to us at our desks or in meetings. Instead, they come to us when on a walk, in the shower, before, during or after meditation – and on vacations. Simply put, all the times when disconnected from work!

Breaks help our brain rest – so it can function better when working. Breaks that are short improve cognitive functioning and performance. So as you read this, why not take a short break? Yes, now.

(5 minutes later . . .) So, how did that feel?

Here’s what works for me

I consciously plan “transition” time between meetings or work I am doing, or switching from home to family and vice versa, to allow my brain to rest and rejuvenate. I also take longer breaks during the day (to read the paper, a novel, a walk, yoga, a hot bath or tub soak). If you were to shadow me for a day, you would think I waste a TON of time.

That would be very misleading, because in the “work” phase of my day, which is focused on achieving two key outcomes only, I am super productive. Why?

Because my brain is relaxed – no matter how many crisis there may be around me. Also, these breaks help me de-stress every day and result in me rarely feeling overwhelmed, even through difficult life periods.

It has not been easy learning to schedule breaks

For the AAA type personality I’ve been all my life, it’s been very difficult to learn to step away and take breaks frequently.

But like anything else in life, practice makes (near) perfect.

I also schedule at least one twenty-four-hour period each week with no work (two full days would be even better but I am not quite there yet!) —no work calls, no e-mail, no meetings, and no smartphone pick-up unless it’s personal/family.

Vacations? I am gradually increasing them to at least six weeks per year, though my goal is 12 weeks.

It’s sad to hear that North Americans have the shortest vacations, and a whopping 40% of vacation time goes unused. Reasons: the dread of returning from a vacation to piles of work (40 percent), the belief that no one can step in and do my job while I am gone (35 percent), not being able to afford it (33 percent) and the fear of being seen as replaceable (22 percent).

But increasingly, even busy leaders are taking time away from their roles and companies, from one month to one year – and finding that they return with new vigor, new energy and new perspectives.

So consider shifting your perspective to: Breaks are one of my best productivity tools!

And consider making 2016 the year of breaks – small, medium and large. I am willing to bet that if you do, you will enjoy your most productive year ever. I certainly plan to increase my breaks!

Happy 2016!