It's time to Take a Break - Here's whyMay 06, 2023
It’s common to believe that the key to success in life is to be more productive, to work harder, longer, and more efficiently. In some cultures, being busy is a status symbol. If the answer to “how are you”, is anything other than “slammed / busy”, what are you even doing? Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence to support that this approach is hurting more than it’s helping. Taking regular breaks and doing nothing helps improve memory, creativity, and decision-making. Quality, frequent rest can help reduce stress and improve mental and physical health.
In today’s post, we explore some of the research on breaks, and share some resources focused on taking more/better quality breaks. The goal is to convince you that it’s worthwhile, and to give you permission to play the long game by taking breaks to support your physical and mental wellbeing. Let’s get started!
Let's look at some of the Research
There’s certainly a plethora of studies, but we’ll pick just a few...
"The Science of Rest: The Benefits of Giving Your Brain a Break" by Ferris Jabr, published in Scientific American in 2013, summarizes several studies that demonstrate that breaks and resting can improve memory consolidation, creativity, and problem-solving. Jabr summarizes: "Research has shown that our brains are often most active when we're not consciously thinking about anything in particular." By denying ourselves these periods of recovery, we are robbing ourselves from serious creative potential. "Resting and doing nothing may seem counterproductive, but research suggests that it can actually lead to greater creativity and innovation in the long run."
"The Value of Doing Nothing" by Manfred Kets de Vries (1999). This article, published in the Harvard Business Review, suggests that taking breaks and doing nothing can actually improve decision-making and lead to greater creativity and innovation. This paper cites a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management that found that employees who take breaks throughout the day are more productive and focused, and another by the University of Illinois found that people who take breaks during the day are more creative and better able to solve problems than those who work straight through.
Mindfulness Incubator Blog Posts on the importance of breaks, and how to get more out of them
If you’re thinking “I’ve read a blog post about this before..” you’d be right! This is a topic we care deeply about, because without downtime, we cannot be our best selves, and we cannot live life with purpose and ease.
In the blog post Skill building: Better focus. Better breaks., we share some of our best tips for how to improve the quantity, regularity and quality of breaks. This includes making sure there are regular “resets” between activities (which we call micro-breaks), scheduling longer breaks and buffers, ensuring the time is spent on things that actually help with downwinding and getting time away from devices.
In the blog post Retreats at any budget (including DIY!), we hone in on the importance of taking regular, longer breaks, and a step by step for how to do so. It also includes a handy DIY Retreat guide so you can access the restorative powers of a few days away at any budget.
Some of our Favorite Books that include inspiration for the importance of taking Breaks
We’ve covered some of these books in our prior blog posts focused on book recommendations.
From Five Books to help you find more Perspective & Ease
Unicorn Space - Eve Rodsky
In her book "Unicorn Space," Eve Rodsky argues that women need more than just a break from their daily responsibilities; they need space to do nothing. She explores the idea that in our busy lives, we often neglect simply being. Rodsky believes that creating "unicorn space" - a term she uses to describe uninterrupted, stress-free time - can help women become more creative, productive, and fulfilled. Through personal anecdotes, interviews, and research, she offers practical strategies for creating unicorn space in one's life.
Tranquility by Tuesday - Laura Vanderkam
In "Tranquility by Tuesday," Laura Vanderkam emphasizes the need to build moments of tranquility into our schedules to improve productivity, creativity, and well-being. By prioritizing tranquility, Vanderkam suggests that we can reduce stress, increase happiness, and improve our overall quality of life.
From Our 10 Favorite Reads of 2021
Essentialism - Greg McKeown
"Essentialism" by Greg McKeown is a book that challenges the idea that we can have it all and do it all. McKeown argues that in order to achieve our goals and live a meaningful life, we need to focus on what is essential and eliminate the non-essential. He emphasizes the importance of creating space to think, reflect, and recharge, and argues that taking time to do nothing is essential for productivity and creativity. By focusing on what is essential and creating space for downtime, McKeown suggests that we can live a more fulfilling and purposeful life.
Your next action item
What do you do with all this? We invite you to consider three easy to implement steps:
- Next time you finish an activity and you’re tempted to dive right into the next one, don’t. Take a few moments to breathe, go for a walk, or so something else that helps you disconnect.
- Schedule breaks for your upcoming workweek. Aim for a few spots each day where you can not “do”, and simply “be”.
- If you’re curious, do some more reading on the topic! Pick up any of the excellent book recommendations highlighted in this post.
A few weeks ago, our frequent program facilitator and retreat host Stephanie was a guest on the “Sleep like a Boss Podcast” on behalf of Mindfulness Incubator. You can check out her guest spot that's all about dealing with overwhelm:
Want a nudge to be more mindful? Grab the Mindful in 5 Phone Wallpaper!
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