5 principles of taking effective breaks

‘A perpetual holiday is a good working definition of hell.’  George Bernard Shaw

Creating legacy and pacing yourself

Creating legacy benefits from knowing how to pace yourself. Personally, I find this one of the hardest parts about working on legacy projects. Especially in the honeymoon phase when things are going so well, I used to devote my last ounces of energy to the project, only to have to come to a complete halt once my body had decided enough is enough.

I’m still finding this hard, but over time I’ve started monitoring myself more closely, experimenting with taking breaks at different times, and combining this with knowledge from psychology books and other sources.  I’ve come up with five principles of taking effective breaks, which I hope will help you in your own legacy endeavours.

How to take effective breaks while creating legacy

1. If you have a definite start time and a definite finish time for your breaks you will find they are much more refreshing than if you start the break and finish the break at an indeterminate time.

2. The length of your breaks isn’t as important as the fact that you start and finish it at an exact time.

3. Stop dead in the middle of a task at the time you’ve decided to take the break. Our instinctive reaction when we decide to take a break is to work to the next natural finishing point – the end of the next chapter or section – and then take a break. This seems a very natural thing to do. But the mind likes completion, so getting it to start again on the next section can be an effort. On the other hand, if you stop dead in the middle of something, then your mind is saying ‘but we haven’t finished yet!’. Getting going again is much easier because your mind wants to get back to the task to finish it.

4. The best time to take an unscheduled break is when you have just started something new. My rule is: never take a break until you have started the next thing.

5. It is usually better to do a task that will take you one hour in three 20-minute sessions, with short breaks in-between, than in one sitting. If you come back to a subject after a break – no matter how short – you will find that you have moved on a little. If you don’t take the breaks, you don’t get this effect. Breaks don’t just refresh you and improve your concentration; they also help you to produce higher-quality work.

What about you?

Do you have any tips on how to take effective breaks? How do you make sure you pace yourself while working on a legacy project? I’d love to read about your suggestions in the comments section.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com