The Secret to Getting More Done

take a breakI have to say, I’m really happy I decided to start my own business last year.  It was something I’ve always wanted to do and finally had the courage to go after and things are going really well!  I love the work that I’m doing.  Even the behind the scenes stuff, writing blog posts, newsletters, research and planning client programs is fun and doesn’t feel like work but I can easily work from 9am to Midnight some days and only stop for bathroom breaks or dinner!  That’s no good.

When I work at these long clips, I started to notice that my mind was wandering more and I wasn’t getting as much done in the time I set aside.  I want to give my best self to my clients and in my work. I want to be a great wife and a great friend. And I want to be productive and effective. I can’t do that if I’m burning the candle at both ends. I have to take breaks and nurture other parts of me. So do you.

That’s the secret to getting more done:  Breaks.

I know it sounds like the opposite of what you should be doing when you have a lot to do or are on a roll but it’s the truth. A study from the University of Illinois found that taking breaks from a task can improve your focus and creativity drastically. Breaks refresh, recharge and rejuvenate our minds and souls.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a small break like a 30 minute walk or a big break like a week long vacation.  There is a part of you that needs those segues.  It’s like rebooting your computer.  Suddenly things that you thought were broken seem to work again.

This past weekend, I decided that once 7:00pm on Friday rolled around that I was done working from then until Monday morning (okay it was closer to 7:30 but still!).  This weekend was for me to reboot! My husband took me up to Portsmouth Saturday to walk around and go out for a nice dinner. We stayed over in a downtown hotel, had Sunday brunch with my brother in law and then spent Sunday evening cuddling with the cat and watching 80’s movies.  It was a short break from my usual routine but it was just what I needed! It was hard not checking in on my work email or looking at my to do list when I came home Sunday night but I felt great and was really excited about all the things I wanted to do in the upcoming week. My mind feels more clear!

I’ve learned that if I want to be able to give my best in all I do, then I need to nurture myself.  No one puts out their best work or gives their best to their families or friends if they’re not taking time for themselves.  It’s not selfish and it’s not lazy.  It’s essential!

Obviously I can’t go away for the weekend every time I need a break (wouldn’t that be nice!) so I’m committing to taking regular breaks during my work day so that I don’t burn out. A few things that can help get your energy and focus back are:

  1. Exercise. Getting some fresh air and your blood pumping is incredibly invigorating.
  2. Read a book (something fun!)
  3. Meeting a friend for tea or coffee. Friends can be great stress relief.
  4. Cat naps.  Just 15 – 30 minutes is enough to clear your head and feel refreshed.
  5. Have a snack.  Something with complex carbs, fat and protein.  Some celery and carrot sticks with hummus or an apple and a hard boiled egg are energizing options that won’t slow you down.

Do you feel scattered when you don’t take breaks? Do you need to make more time for you to be your most productive? Is there a part of you that feels like you don’t deserve to take time off? What sorts of things do you do to take a break?

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