Getting Away: 5 Reasons to Take a Break

For as long as I’ve been working, it still surprises me how valuable it is to take some time away from the job and do something completely different. The refreshing of your mind, body and spirit...

"When Mozart was composing at the end of the eighteenth century, the city of Vienna was so quiet that fire alarms could be given verbally, by a shouting watchman mounted on top of St. Stefan's Cathedral.  In twentieth-century society, the noise level is such that it keeps knocking our bodies out of tune and out of their natural rhythms.  This ever-increasing assault of sound upon our ears, minds, and bodies adds to the stress load of civilized beings trying to live in a highly complex environment."

Steven Halpern

... that takes place, I believe, is critical to being able to give your best to your work. I spent last week at a family camp/retreat where we (almost) completely unplugged from everything. In part, that meant no television, no internet and no news (with the exception of the awful tragedy last weekend, as we were only about an hour away from Orlando.)  The days were busy – we had a full schedule of events each day – but being in a different environment and using different parts of my brain were incredibly renewing.  (You can read about part of what made the week special to me on my personal blog.)  When I got back to work, several things struck me as I re-engaged into reality…

1.  You Need a Change of Scenery   As much as we may like the environment and conditions where we work, it is always beneficial to get away and see different things. This way, when we get back, we can see what had become dull and ordinary in a different light. With fresh eyes, we see things that we may have been just looking past prior to disconnecting for a bit.

2.  You Get a Fresh Perspective   At any given time your brain is working on multiple things. As you go through the workday, there are processes churning in the background: problems to solve, decisions to make and tasks to accomplish.  It’s easy to get into a mental rut.  When you give your brain something different to work on, it opens up new neural pathways in your brain and creates new ways of thinking.  This subsequently affects all of those “background processes” when you return to work because you have some new frames of reference from which to work.  (This is actually a well-documented phenomenon in neuroscience known as neuroplasticity.)

3.  Your Employees and Co-Workers Have Opportunity to Grow   When you leave the office for a while, inevitably those that remain have a little bit more work to shoulder.  Often times, this is a great opportunity for them to realize what they are capable of.  It may be stretching for them, but by being “forced” to do some things they otherwise would not, your fellow team members have a chance to build their skills and their confidence.  They discover that they can contribute more and in different ways than is typical.  This is particularly true in smaller organizations like Marketing Workshop. We pride ourselves on being flexible and nimble, and these opportunities allow us to grow even more in this area.

4.  Others Remember and Appreciate What You Do   Not unrelated to the point above, when you’ve been away and then return, folks seem to have a renewed appreciation for what you do! While you were away, there were probably multiple times when you were needed. Maybe not so much that they had to track you down and contact you, but enough to make them say, “I wish ______ was here!” There just may be something to that old adage, “absence makes the heart grow fonder” … even in the workplace!

5.  You Remember There is More to Life than Just Work   This may be the last item mentioned on this list, but to me it is probably the most important reason to take a break.  It’s easy to get consumed with our work and forget that our “work” is just one aspect of our lives.  The term “work-life balance” doesn’t even really capture the essence of the dynamic that takes place between the different aspects of our lives anymore.  At some level, thanks in large part to smartphones, we are never really off work. We have become accessible 24/7.  This results in all of us having to become skilled with boundaries, establishing when – and when not – you will reply to emails or otherwise engage in work related activities.  Sometimes getting away helps us to hit the reset button in putting these kinds of boundaries back into place.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list.  I’m sure that you can come up with many of your own reasons why it is healthy and right to take a break. It’s also important to remember to encourage others to take a break when necessary, as well . Everyone benefits when you get away.  And you will benefit when those around you take the time to get away. As we enter into these first few days of summer, remember, there is more to life than work and when you take some time to give priority to those other areas, your work life will benefit.

~ Bud Sanders

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