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 legs are never moving while she’s sitting in those conferences.
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 “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, why 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 does not 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.
They miss an opportunity to leverage the 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 stop concentrating and let it roam free. Breaks mean running the car, but on idle.
I agree with what The Huffington Post says on breaks: “It is difficult to see things from a new perspective or find new insights when we come at it the same way all the time. Taking a step away — literally or figuratively — might be just what we need to recharge.”
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 of a break if we’re going to gain anything out of a break.
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, but 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 your 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, then 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. Often times, since you’re naturally sitting most of the day, 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, 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. 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 is getting 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.
So, we’ve given excuses of why we can’t or don’t take a break. And we learned the benefits of taking a break. Now, let’s get very practical on how to actually take a break while on a business trip.
Here are Six Ways to Take an Energy-Giving Break on the Road
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.
Some break ideas are:
- Breath Break
- Stand Break
- Stretch Break
- Bathroom Break
- Snack Break
- 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 to 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 overachiever and combine break types.
Three types 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 energy boost, 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%.
Here are three different types of micro-breaks:
- Breathe break – Take in oxygen to the brain.
- Stand break – Simply standing and walking a sedentary body will do more for you than you think, even with 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.
EVERYONE on the road has time for MICRO breaks. They don’t affect your time but definitely affect your energy!
2. MINI – Think Minutes/Medium Length
Micro is seconds; mini is minutes. You can sneak a little break in with only 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!
- Bathroom break – This can be a mini-break. If you’re drinking water, this is a natural by-product of your hydration donation. Most on the road have time for mini-breaks either from your meeting that gives you a break, in-between meetings, or self-appointed mini-breaks.
- Snack break – There’s no shame in getting a snack throughout the day. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to get some other sources of energy to your body so that you can work most effectively. Just remember to put good food into your body to help this mini-break be effective.
3. MAX – Think Unplug/Large Length
This type of break is harder to come by and is either granted during a long meeting or you just have to take it.
- 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 and mini breaks.
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.
Breaks are all over for you on the road if you just begin to look for them then learn to leverage them.
The ultimate goal is maximizing that break for all it’s worth to gain the energy you need for your day on the road.