The importance of taking a break

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The biggest problem with being self-employed is trying to find time to switch off.

I know plenty of people who run their own businesses and work 12 hour days, and maybe take a day off at the weekend. We tell ourselves, that such-and-such needs doing, or these 17 emails need answering, and so we get bogged down with a continuous amount of work.

But guess what: Our Inboxes are NEVER empty.

Accepting this tiny little phrase is perhaps one of the most important in a world full of things that needed doing yesterday. And the reality is, how much of it can wait until the next day, or even the next week? In my case, certainly 50 percent of it. Studies have consistently shown, that taking a break or a long pause from working actually increases productivity, and by actually stepping back we can approach our workload from a better angle.

One thing I’ve learned recently is to make a note of how productive I feel throughout the day. For example, when I sit down at my desk first thing in the morning, compared to those slow few hours after lunch. It’s likely that by 2pm I’m starting to see the clock tick closer to home time and I’m beginning to panic about what’s not getting done. But biologically, my body is telling me to do as little as possible. Why? Because I’ve just rushed my lunch down my throat in five minutes and now I’m digesting it. This process causes my body to feel lethargic and counter-productive, which is why it makes sense to tackle those tasks that take little thought, such as reading or creating invoices. But at 10am, when I’ve just cycled in to the office and necked a nice strong cup of coffee, well that’s entirely different. I’m feeling pro-active and getting the difficult and lengthy tasks done is an absolute must at this time of day.

The same goes for working at night whilst lying in bed. We look at our watches and try to squeeze another 20 minutes in before midnight, but this has a huge side-effect. The blue light that is emitted from our computer screens and tablets actually confuses the brain in to waking up. So by the time we finally switch out the light our bodies think it’s time to be alert again. Not so good for getting a great night’s sleep and waking up feeling rested.

For the past seven days I’ve been out of the loop as I took a well-earned break. A few days in England, followed by a mini cruise to Oslo and back in less than 48 hours. But during this time I managed to avoid connecting to the internet and therefore reading all those emails that came in. Sure, I missed out on a couple of jobs that might have paid a couple of bills, but I also missed out on a couple of arsey emails that would have ruined my holiday. They were still there when I got back, but at least I wasn’t lying in bed worrying about them all night.

It’s easy to make excuses to keep plodding along with our work and neglect our mental and physical health responsibilities. But for those of you wanting to work smarter and not harder, try taking a look at your daily routine to see how you can change things round a bit. It’s worked for me, and I’m sure it can work for you, too.

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