Working flat-out is tiring and, ultimately, unproductive: that’s why jobs come with mandated break periods. But if you’re self-employed or otherwise responsible for organising your own schedule, make sure that you take a break from your tasks. Imagine a ‘pause’ button and make sure you press it frequently.
Taking a break is beneficial to physical and mental health and it makes negotiating work and relationships more pleasurable. If we work non-stop, we begin to enter an unreflective, auto-pilot mode, characterised by stimulus/response activity. Pauses calm our nervous system, enabling us to choose our responses mindfully rather than out of habit. Exercising choice is more effective and satisfying.
I have a tendency to speed through my day, convincing myself that ticking things of my to-do list as quickly as possible makes me an efficient and effective worker. However, in this mode I feel rushed and suspect that I might be short-changing everything and everyone. Without thoughtfulness, our responses merge into mediocrity.
Taking a break between tasks – something as simple as breathing deeply, enjoying a cup of coffee or making a phone call to a friend, resets and refocuses me. I can then proceed rationally with my day, prioritising my to-do list and even deciding to drop some items altogether.
Recently, during a workshop for some women who have been through terrible times, we pressed pause between each section of our activities: we took three deep breaths and made a little clearing in which we could rest and reflect before tackling the next step. It was so successful that I intend to introduce it into other workshops.
It may not always be easy to resist the pressure and slow down – press ‘pause’ – but if you don’t give yourself a break, who will? It doesn’t not come naturally to me – I’m not known for waiting before I talk or act – but experience has shown that it is beneficial and not just at work : don’t forget those vital personal relationships.
And here’s link to 10 short Ted talks to watch during your coffee break.