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Why Taking a Break Can Also Make You More Effective At Work

Written by: Milly Welsh
Published: March 2011

Last year my husband suggested that I stop working on Saturdays so that we could have a day each week to do family stuff and relax. As a work at home mom with two kids, I had been working whenever I had the opportunity and, the weekends when my husband is home, made up a big chunk of my workweek. The thought of taking a whole day off made me nervous. How would I be able to sustain the same amount of effectiveness in less time? Despite my fears, I decided to give it a try. After all, my family is the reason why I work so hard to begin with. What’s the point if we can’t spend time together?

A few months after implementing “family day”, I realized that my fears weren’t warranted. I was worried that by turning Saturdays into a work free day, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demands of my business, but in fact the opposite was true. By not working on Saturdays, I seemed to be getting more done on the days that I did. At first this seemed counter intuitive, but over time I made some observations that help to explain why working less can actually be more...

  • Although many of us try, the bottom line is, you can’t work all the time. If you attempt to, you wind up getting burned out and there is no way you can do your best in that state.
  • Guilt can be a powerful distraction. Before we started family day, I hadn’t set any clear work schedule for myself. Because of this, I would often feel guilty for my family when I was working and then guilt for my clients when I wasn’t. Once I started setting up more of a routine, the guilt subsided and I was able to focus better on the tasks at hand.
  • Distancing yourself can be a great way to troubleshoot a problem. My occupation can get rather technical and there are often instances when I run into problems that seem disastrous to the entire project. If I try to work through it, I often miss the obvious. By taking a day off, I come back with fresh eyes and almost always come up with a sensible solution in much less time. Even if you don’t have a technical profession, occasionally distancing yourself from your work can be a great way to gain a different perspective on any job related difficulties.
  • Balance is healthy. If you focus too much on work, it can create problems with your personal relationships, which can in turn cause you to be distracted in your professional life. It’s important to create a sustainable work and life balance for your own personal happiness and the happiness of those around you. Happy people are more effective.

You may think that by not taking a vacation or by checking your emails over the weekend, that you are doing your company a huge favor. As noble as this is, it may not be having the impact that you or your organization really desires. If you can relate, you may want to try to implement a “family day” of your own or take that vacation you’ve been putting off. It might surprise you how much you can accomplish when you get back to the grindstone.

Milly Welsh

Milly Welsh

Milly Welsh is the Priority Learning webmaster and Owner/Operator of Zebralove Web Solutions, a web development company located in southern Maine.
Zebralove Web Solutions