As busy professionals, the demands on our time is continuously increasing. There are so many things that demand our attention, and even worse, there are many things that distract us from what we want to accomplish.
If we look at a number of professional sports like football or basketball, having timeouts are an important part of the sport, which allow teams to strategise and make adjustments to their game plan as required.
Applying that concept to our personal lives can be challenging. If you’re like me, allowing yourself to have time out is not something that comes easily.
In their book, The Power of Full Engagement, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz share the results of studies conducted with professional athletes, which reveals that those who are able to take regular time out to regroup and recompose themselves under high stress and pressure, consistently outperform those who don’t.
You and I are no different. We do need to take regular time out in order to be at our best. Whenever I have failed to take a break from my usual demands, it typically manifests as some form of discomfort in my body, which results in me being forced to take a break.
That is not a very intelligent way to operate and it is something I am working on improving. Based on my experiences, here are five reasons why taking regular breaks or time away from the daily grind should be an integral part of our lives.
- We must have enough rest. We cannot operate efficiently if we’re consistently on the go. Think of a car that runs all the time without having any periodic service or maintenance — it is going to eventually break down.
We are no different. In order to be at our best, we must give ourselves a break and get away from everything we are doing. This also includes getting enough sleep every night, which is one of the most important ways our body recovers and rejuvenates.
- It is better for our health long term. Continuous stress and feeling burned out is not good for us. That puts a tremendous amount of strain on our health, whether it is physical, emotional, or mental. Unless we manage stress well, it can have some serious repercussions on our health.
I sometimes think of the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc., and wonder if the stress of his work contributed to his health problems, which ultimately resulted in his death. While we’ll never know, one thing for sure is intense levels of stress, over any prolonged period of time, is not good for us.
- It allows us to be creative. It is believed that Sir Isaac Newton discovered how the law of gravity works while sitting under an apple tree, watching an apple fall to the ground. Whether he was actually taking a break is debatable, however the fact is, that moment of quiet time led him to explain one of the most important laws ever uncovered.
When we give our mind a break from continual focus and intensity, it is able to relax and be open to new thoughts or ideas. Anyone who has ever come up with a creative idea will almost always indicate that the idea came when they least expected it, which often was when they were relaxed and refreshed.
- We become more focused and productive. Think of a time when you barely had enough sleep the night before and had to either be at work or do something important the next day… how focused or productive were you?
If you’re like most people, you struggled to concentrate and probably were very ineffective that day. That’s because in order to operate efficiently on a consistent basis, we must have time out from what we are doing. Getting enough sleep per night (between 7 to 9 hours) is only one aspect of taking time out.
It is highly recommended that every 90 days, we take a few days off, and do no work-related activities. It should be for fun and play. And yes, that also includes parents with children. Having some time away from your children can do wonders for your parenting skills.
- We need time alone with our thoughts. Being alone with our thoughts is actually good for us. Our thoughts are the starting point for everything we do in life. It is an opportunity to review and evaluate what’s working well for us, what’s not working and what we can do differently to get the outcomes we want.
It is okay to feel unproductive at times because that’s an indication we are giving our brains a break, and being alone with our thoughts is the best way to do it. Maybe we should feel bored more often.
Building in rest periods during our day, week and weekends is vitally important for our long-term health and wellness. It also affects our ability to stay focused, productive and operate at our best in order to get things done. If we’re able to have regular time out, not only will we feel good more often, we will also accomplish more with a lot less stress and angst.
Question: Which reason for taking time out resonated most with you? Why?
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