Vacation! Part 2

How do people balance the needs for productivity and rest? Everyone needs to get things done. Everyone needs a break. How do we do both?

That’s something that most people, including myself, struggle with. It happens when I’m playing a computer game (“just one more turn” ends three hours later). Sometimes I manically try to do everything for every project right now. Today. All of it. Other times it seems like too much effort to wash the dishes. Arggh.

The limited insight I can offer is this: breaks only last for a limited, predetermined time. There is a difference between being lazy and taking a break. Lazy lasts until some undefined, nebulous moment when I stand up in disgust and tell myself to get back to work. I feel crummy, too. A break has a definite start and stop time, maybe a bit on the short side. It seems fair and feels guilt-free.

Imagine a saw mill. The mill owner gives the workers breaks to help them work better, and to keep them safe. (Tired people get hurt more often and worse because they can’t pay attention as well.) Also, the breaks help people keep good attitudes, which gets more work done. (Yes, Mr. or Ms. Cynic, breaks are mandated by federal law. Probably because people’s greed overrules their common sense sometimes, so we needed a law.)

You’re the boss. When managing your own efforts, take breaks to restore your working ability. Take breaks to restore attentiveness. Take breaks to restore your attitude, since that’s going to affect your thinking, which affects your actions, which affects your results. Set limits that seem reasonable. Also, since I work on a lot of things where I don’t immediately see the results, I tend to give myself small rewards to symbolize the bigger achievement. When I finish my work today, for example, I’ll probably watch a movie or play a game, for awhile. Work to live, not live to work.

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