We often forget that we are not slaves to our work. No-one is literally chaining us to our desks, or our work (and if they are then you should really seek help) but we act like we are chained.
It is easy to get so entrenched in our to-do list that we forget the importance of breaks. Breaks need to be more of a priority. We are not robots. But even if we were robots, we would sometimes need time to charge and to turn off; in order to cool down, not overheat and die. Breaks are not just a luxury meant for the lucky few, or for when you finish all your goals and to-dos; they are the fuel that will support you throughout your life and help you achieve more.
The general consensus for how long we can concentrate without a break is 50-90 minutes. Therefore, we should be ensuring that roughly every hour or so, we should be having some kind of break. Be it getting up and having a 5 minute water break, or a 10 minute relaxing read, we should be doing something to relax our minds. I find that a good rule of thumb is to work for 50 minutes and break for 10 minutes. This ensures that we can have time for snacks, rests and anything extra that might crop up during the day.
A few useful things that we can do to really maximise these breaks include: exercise snacking, reading, drinking water and Brendon Burchard's release meditation technique (which I highly recommend). I find that, between tasks, these methods really help me stay fresh and help my mind clear some of the residual fog from my previous work.
However, it is not enough to just get that 10 minutes in between tasks. We also need to take time to unwind fully, throughout the year. We should plan to take time off every year. Even if we are super busy, or can’t literally go away, we should try to take some time off. Perhaps, if you are really bad at taking breaks, just aim to first take an extended weekend off every month. Don't touch your work or your emails and try turning off your phone. Really take time to enjoy your hobbies, connect with your loved ones more and appreciate everything in your life.
Another sidelined but equally important way to have breaks is to make sleep a priority. Sleep is essential to everything. We need sleep to function. It is not something that we can keep putting off. The benefits of sleep and the detriments of not having enough are endless. But quite simply put: if you don't sleep, you die. So really making this a priority, every night, is a necessity. We should be kind to ourselves and try our hardest to achieve more of it. For me, it is one of the most difficult things to accomplish as I always find more tasks to do. But I find that putting an alarm on can help and that if I plan to turn my devices off 90 minutes before bed, I tend to get to bed earlier.
This leads me to my next point of spending less time on your devices. Our devices can either be an incredible tool and connector, or they can be a horrible hindrance and distractor. It is up to us to decide which we want them to be. Nowadays there is literally an app for every little thing. It is fantastic. We can learn a lot from apps and connect through social media but our time online has a cost: our sanity. If we spend all our waking hours glued to our phones, we are never giving our brains or eyes a break. We need to take time to appreciate the world and our lives outside of our phones. There is often nothing as soothing for the soul as real life experiences. What we remember and treasure the most are the moments created outside of the digital world.
Breaks and spaces are the exhale of life. We need to take them to live well. We can't exist just living on an inhaled breath. Holding our breath like that only creates tension and anxiety. We need to exhale, relax and enjoy what life has to offer us.
Wishing you calm and more breaks in your life
Naomi Leila Xx
P.S. Please let me know how you take breaks and the ways that make you feel more rested.