Take a Break (and Get More Done)

In a world obsessed by productivity, taking a break is often the best way of achieving more.

Understand the Problem

The productivity literature is chock full of techniques to help you:

  • Prioritise your work
  • Work harder
  • Work smarter

Fundamentally, however, a focus on getting things done misses the obvious:

Your productivity will suffer if you’re exhausted.

So will your health, relationships, intellect and value-system.
Lack of rest effects your ability to think and your ability to perform. If you’re not getting enough rest:

  • You’re less likely to set the right goals
  • You won’t do things the smartest way
  • You’ll have more accidents
  • You’ll make more mistakes
  • You’ll learn less
  • You’ll suffer from stress
  • You’ll have health problems
  • Your motivation will drop
  • You’ll be miserable
  • You’ll be less interested in other people
  • You won’t look so good
  • You’re likely to gain weight
  • Your judgement will be impaired
  • You’ll find it hard focus

And chances are, this is you.
So, what are you going to do about it?

Take Regular Breaks

…throughout the day.

  • Take 5 minutes every hour or so
  • Take your lunch break

You know how they say that a change is as good as a rest? Then why not try some of the following over the next 7 days?

  • Change your focus. If you’re staring at a screen all day, look out the window.
  • Change your topic. Talk to your colleges about something other than work.
  • Change your pace. If you’re usually rushing about, slow down for a bit. If you’re stuck in a chair most of the time, go for a walk… or a run.
  • Change your posture. Get up or sit down, whichever is more appropriate.
  • Change your environment. If you’re stuck indoors most of the time, go outside and get some air. If you’re out in all weathers, take your break under shelter.

Get More Sleep

You probably need more sleep than you get at the moment, and it can take a while to catch up.
There are a lot of reasons why people don’t get enough sleep, but in the end they boil down to one of 4 basic causes:

  • Insomnia
  • Disturbed nights
  • Getting up too early
  • Getting to bed too late

Get to Bed

I can’t deal with 4 all of these today, but I’ll have a quick go at the last one, as it is the most essential for most of us.
Getting to bed on time has 2 distinct parts:

  1. The time.
  2. …and the getting to bed.

So, the solution to late nights is two-fold:

  • Taking everything else into account, plan a regular bed time that is sufficiently early for you to get enough sleep. This is probably earlier than you think.
  • Then do everything you can to stick to the plan.

Many of us find that, if we decide to stay up a little bit late, then we’re more likely to stay up a lot too late. That happens because our judgement goes to pot when we start getting tired – especially our judgement about how tired we are.

Tip: Use two alarm clocks. One to get you up. One to tell you to go to bed.

Take A Day Off

Followers of the Old Way got it right:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.Exodus 20:8-10

The people who preserved these words for posterity did so because they recognized the wisdom of taking regular breaks.
So, learn from the wise and take one day off every week to recharge your batteries. Seriously. Take a whole day, and do the things that boost your inner resources.

For example, you could:

  • Go to church / temple / mosque
  • Go for a walk in the country
  • …or by the sea
  • Hang out with friends or family
  • Read a great book
  • Light a candle
  • … or a BBQ
  • Go for a swim
  • Have a bit of a thin
  • Listen to music
  • Play with your pets
  • Enjoy a really satisfying meal
  • Have a good long soak in the tub
  • Play a game
  • Make something our of LEGO
  • Paint a picture
  • Sing
  • Take a nap
  • Be thankful

Go On Holiday

A great holiday doesn’t have to involve trips abroad nor great expense. Rather, focus on doing something that gives you:

  • A change of scene
  • Time with your favourite people
  • Doing things that rejuvenate and invigorate you

If you manage these things, then you’re set.


Paradoxically, you productivity will increase if you learn to take regular rest breaks. You’ll be happier, too. So, go on, take a break now. You know it makes sense!


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