Terra is a hard driver. She’s up early and at it late. She never takes breaks and actually prides herself because of it.
During every possible break given in a meeting or conference, she’s working. Her brain is always engaged and her can is always seated.
Her philosophy is “who has time for a break?!” and she actually looks down on those who do. She would never say they are lazy but she does question their work ethic. Is Terra right? After all, you’re on the road to work and crank out as much work as possible.
Or is there a reason to take a break?
This is a major pushback for road warriors: the topic of a break. Terra is not alone in this area. But Terra, give it a break already?!
I know what you’re thinking: “I barely have time to go to the bathroom let alone pause for lunch. How could I ever have time for a break?”
Well, you never “have time.” You always “make time” for things that are important. Believe it or not, breaks are important and they matter.
FOUR NATURAL PUSHBACKS TO TAKING A BREAK
1. I Don’t Have Time to Take a Break
I’m behind before I even start my day and will only fall further behind if I stop and take a break.
I will literally lose more time if I stop. I have TOO much to do and NOT enough time to do it. How could I even consider stopping for a break?
2. I Feel Fine So Why Stop and Take a Break?
Those of us who are locked in and get “in the zone” can easily push back on this one. This is especially true for those of us who love what we do.
3. I Forget to Even Take a Break
If it’s not something we do regularly, especially when traveling, it’s easier to just do a drive by and miss a break even if we want or need to take one.
4. My Travel Schedule Doesn’t Allow Me to Take a Break
This used to be me. I never took a break on the road, and the main reason was I never scheduled it. When I started padding my schedule by just 15 – 30 minutes once or twice a day, the results were outstanding.
The problem is, most road warriors rarely take a break, and IF they do, they do it wrong. How do you screw up a break? Let’s start with what a break is first.
I DEFINE A BREAK AS: MOVE THE BODY/REST THE MIND.
If people choose to take a break at all, they do the opposite – they rest the body and move the mind.
They stay seated and move from one screen to another (computer to phone for social media or personal email).
Aka: they screw it up. They’re not moving because they remain seated and their mind is not resting; it is engaged in something else, such as social media or email. They miss an opportunity to leverage the power of energy that a break can give you IF it’s done correctly.
A true break is designed to move the body – stand/stretch/walk – MOVE! Resting the mind means to stop concentrating and let it roam free. Breaks mean running the car but on idle, to use the high- performance car analogy.
A break is productive only when you disconnect from the work you are doing and indulge in any other activity that takes your mind off the task at hand. The reality is, we have to see the benefit to actually stopping if we’re going to gain anything out of a break.
THREE VITAL BENEFITS OF A BREAK
1. Your Mind Gets to Rest
I don’t know about most people, but the moment I begin my day, my mind is going, and I don’t want to admit it doesn’t stay sharp all day. The reality is my mind begins to fade, especially being around people on the road all day unless I do something about it.
That’s exactly why taking a break to give your mind a rest is so vitally important.
It’s good to push your mind, but if our goal is to stay sharp and productive, we need to consider a mental break. We can only focus for so long before quality begins to decrease. If we’re honest, we’ll admit this truth. Resting the mind is exactly what is needed to become more effective and to increase productivity.
What does resting the mind look like? Well, it doesn’t look like moving from one computer tab to another, from CRM to Twitter, from computer to phone. It means allowing your mind time to roam and not concentrate so it is free to engage in something else without intense focus.
2. Your Body Gets to Move
One of our biggest unknown challenges is being sedentary. Most of us sit almost the entire day, especially when we travel. We’re in a rental car or rideshare to the conference room to dinner and then we crash on the bed.
We are not designed to sit around all day, and it’s definitely not helpful for your creativity or productivity. Getting up for a few minutes gets our blood flowing and oxygen to the brain. We NEED to get our blood flowing and oxygen to the brain to be at our best.
On the road, breaks are often hard to do especially if you’re with other people or in meetings most of the day. But often times, you just have to take the initiative.
How many times have you been in a situation where someone said, “Can we take a quick break? I need to… (Get coffee, to go to the bathroom, make a quick call or return some messages)”?
This is the timeout in sports you’ve been looking for, but use it wisely. Often, people just sit there and completely waste the break to move the body and rest the mind.
They stay seated on their can and check social media or talk about absolutely nothing.
Not you, road warrior.
Exit stage left and go for a walk. Change locations. Move the body and rest the mind. Leave the building if you can. At least, walk around within the building. Often, I take a few stairs and at least step outside. In this way, I’ve moved and taken in some fresh air and scenery.
3. You Come Back More Focused
This is where taking a break actually increases your productivity. We don’t want to just do our work; we want to do our best work, and that’s what happens when we’re focused and creative. When blood is flowing through my body and oxygen to my brain, both have had the break they need to come back more focused.
It’s amazing how people can screw up a break and are worse off after a break. Not you, road warrior. You’ll come back sharp and ready to knock out the rest of the time.
SIX WAYS TO TAKE AN ENERGY-GIVING BREAK ON THE ROAD
1. Stretch break
2. Water break
3. Bathroom break
4. Snack break
5. Breathe break
6. Walk break
These may seem obvious, but so often, we’re simply not doing them. We’ll choose six excuses.
Think creatively about how you could add them into your travel day. If you think you don’t have ANY time for a break, consider the following with examples of how to use the six different types of breaks.
Your goal: Be an over-achiever and combine break types.
THREE LENGTHS OF BREAKS ON THE ROAD
1. MICRO – Think Seconds/Small Length
We may not have time for anything longer at the moment or we just need a quick hit of the benefit of a break, and that’s exactly why we should take micro breaks throughout the day.
Here’s a stat for you: a 30-second micro break can increase your productivity up to 13% and a 15-second break from staring at your computer screen every ten minutes can reduce your fatigue by 50%.
Types of micro breaks:
* Breathe break – Take in oxygen to the brain.
* Stand break – Simply standing and walking that sedentary body will do more for you than you think for such little effort
* Stretch break – take that stand and move it to a stretch to get some additional blood flowing. You’d be surprised what a simple, calculated stretch will do for your energy.
2. MINI – Think Minutes/Medium Length
Micro is seconds; mini is minutes. You can sneak a good little breakin within a few minutes.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) research reveals that taking mini breaks that range up to 5 minutes can improve mental acuity by about 13 percent. That’s GREAT ROI for just five minutes!
Types of mini breaks:
* Bathroom break – If you’re drinking water, this is a natural by-product of your hydration donation and the benefit is you add a walk break to get you to the bathroom. Brilliant!
3. MAX – Think Unplug/Large Length
* Water break – Again, if you’re drinking water, you’re going to need a refill, and this is the time to do it.
This couple of minutes’ break does more than you realize and is worth the quick stop. Often, this is a natural upgrade from the micro breaks, but the biggest bang for your break buck is a…
If you’ve been concentrating for a while, at some point in your morning and/or especially in your afternoon, you need a max break.
How often have you found yourself pushing through the mid- to late-afternoon and everything just seems to take you twice as long and the quality is half as good? The solution? A max break. This is a true un-plug.
I’m not talking an hour or even 45 minutes; 15 minutes is a great place to start with a max break. You can often maximize a few different types of breaks:
* Walk break – This is a true “move the body/rest the mind” exercise. While you’re at it, throw in a stretch break at no additional charge.
BREAKING THIS UP
According to the book Rest, a true break from work – the kind that allows what sociologists call detachment, the ability to put work completely out of your mind and attend to other things – turns out to be tremendously important as a source of mental and physical recovery from work.
I realize breaks may be a change of mindset for you, but if you begin to simply change how you view a break, whether given or self- imposed, you will experience the benefits of moving your body and resting your mind as you get the full benefits of a break. Take a short walk and change your environment for a few moments to catch your breath with the goal of coming back refreshed and ready for another round.
1. A break is defined as “move the body/rest the mind.”
2. Implement as many of the six different types of breaks as possible on the road: stretch, water, bathroom, snack, breathe, walk.
3. Implement as many of the three different lengths of breaks as possible on the road: micro = think seconds and small length; mini = think minutes and medium length; macro = think unplug and large length.