I was behind someone in line a few days ago and couldn’t help hearing part of his conversation with his companion. What caught my attention was the man’s comment that he hadn’t had a vacation in fifteen years.
Wow. While I’m sure this man was proud of his diligence and hard work, I couldn’t help wondering how badly burnout might be affecting the value of his output. In my experience, you either break or you learn to take a break.
Now I know that with some of the ups and downs of the economy, “staycations” have replaced vacations for many people. The point isn’t about leaving town, staying in a hotel, or going somewhere exotic. For me, the essential point is to step away from the swift current of your busy life for even a day, an afternoon, a weekend and rest, relax and refresh yourself.
Some people like to brag that they are so essential, their business couldn’t last a few days without them. Usually, this means they have avoided developing procedures and delegating trivia, or that they have made themselves the roadblock, either out of a love of being important or the need to micromanage. Eventually, the stress catches up and the business is forced to do without them while the indispensable manager recovers from a heart attack or other stress-related ailment.
Other people have never learned how to relax. Maybe they were told that it was bad not to be active every minute–“idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” American culture has the unfortunate habit of undervaluing rest and restoration and overvaluing activity for activity’s sake. If that’s your hang-up, let it go.
When we allow ourselves to take a break, wonderful things happen that actually enhance future productivity. By taking a step away from the normal flow of things, we often gain new and valuable perspective. By resting, we preserve our health and prevent a longer, possibly destructive interruption due to illness. When we move outside our normal routine to go somewhere new, do something different or have a new experience, we become open to unexamined possibilities. And when our break frees up time for us to nurture our family and close friendships, we preserve the relationships that support us and enable us to do our best work.
This summer, make a commitment to yourself to take a break at regular intervals and see what new possibilities emerge.