I don’t know about you, but I always find myself with way more to do than hours in the day.
If it were physically possible, I could literally work all the time.
Of course, I realize that’s a bad idea. This does, however, lead me to a couple of tough questions;
- When should I take a break?
- On what basis should I decide to take a break?
As ridiculous as these questions sound when spelled out in black and white, I don’t think I’m alone in pondering them. Between the challenging economy, the ongoing issues involved with building a career and American society’s inherent workaholic tendencies, there are cultural cues aplenty urging us to try harder.
But there aren’t many indicators telling us when it’s O.K. to ease up. So I made a list for those of us who need help:
- When you’re slumped over your keyboard. Give it up and find a way to get some sleep. Not only is the potential for spills just too great, you’re kidding yourself if you think you’re being productive when your nose is parked on the “H” key.
- Pain on standing. If it takes you more than a minute to straighten yourself out when you finally do leave your work desk, you’ve been there too long. All joking aside, your computer can cause serious, long-term injuries with over-use, so be careful.
- When you’ve been reading or writing the same sentence over and over for at least 15 minutes. You’re spinning your wheels and actually wasting time by not taking a break.
- When you feel like you have gristle in your brain. Has this ever happened to you? You’re working on a project and every thought you have seems to lead – nowhere. That’s if you can even come up with a thought. Stop banging your head against the wall of your exhaustion – it’s not going to shake anything loose.
- When it takes too long to do a simple task. This could reveal itself first at home, when little things like folding laundry can take hours. At work, you could find yourself stymied by your time sheet. Have you ever noticed how electric toothbrushes growl and grind to a virtual halt when their batteries are low? That’s what you’re doing, so it’s time to recharge yourself.
And here’s the most important sign you need to take a break….
- When you can’t imagine doing it. Aside from those times when you are racing to meet a huge deadline, it’s usually possible to step outside your work zone and take a breath. But when you’re not sure what you’d do if you had a little extra time… Get thee to a hot tub right away. Or massage therapist or movie theater, or whatever helps you unplug.
It’s O.K. Work will be there when you get back and, with any luck, you’ll return with more energy and concentration.