Monday, January 15, 2018

The Importance of Taking A Break


It is morning. The sun is up and I see a cold icy blue light piercing through the bedroom blinds. In the distance, I hear the airy sound of passing vehicles as they commute up and down the nearby highway. Outside of my window, the occasional sound of small birds chirp enthusiastically between one another while a neighbor’s basset hound conducts its daily wakeup howl. 

At the moment, I’m sitting in my bed with the computer resting on my lap. Here goes another attempt to write something that I can publish to the world. Yes, in the back of my mind, I’m fully aware that it’s been 37 days since my last article. Trust me, I feel the pressure.

As I finish the last paragraph, I hear the lyrics from Aaliyah’s song, “Try Again” echoing in my head.

“It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you, without a dope beat to step to.”

I feel the same way. I shouldn’t have left you hanging.

What happened? You may be asking. Well, that’s a really good question and one that I intend on answering in today’s post.

Let me begin by sharing that 2017 was a really interesting year. In hindsight, it feels like one of the most dramatic and stressful years to date. While I won’t go into detail about the numerous events, just yet, I will share that they fully tested me in so many ways. While not very popular at the time, I now stand grateful for the experiences.

As the year came to a close, I was looking forward to the downtime. Honestly, I needed a break and was already planning to live in my pajamas for most of the holiday. What I didn’t foresee was how badly I needed to disconnect from the world.

It was after the car accident last month that I went into “survival mode.” My focus was on securing transportation and addressing a number of pressing issues. As you can imagine, the stress from the year along with the various priorities that I faced in December left me drained. I was exhausted.

While I was still able to fully function at work and with friends, I was biding my time until I had no further responsibilities to uphold. It was then that I simply let go and put down every weight that I was carrying. I got lost in solitude and it felt great. Days turned into weeks. Unfortunately, living in stasis is not something one should subscribe to for the long-term.

Eventually, I grew tired of the inactivity, laziness, and lethargic flow of my days. It was time to pull myself out of the muck and mire. It was time to reconnect with my purpose and get back to what is important to me.

So, what lessons did I learn from these past 37 days? What takeaways can we garner? In following sections, I share a few ideas that come to mind.

It’s OK To Take A Break

The first lesson that I walked away with is that it’s OK to take a break. With the introduction of technology, it feels like we are always ON. Through email, text messages, mobile phones, social media, and instant messages, I can be accessed almost instantaneously. We are bound to our roles in society, within our jobs, and within our everyday life that unless we are intentional about breaking away, we can eventually burn out at the most inopportune times. 

Schedule Regular Breaks

When I am in full swing and being extremely productive, I don’t want to stop doing what I’m doing. In fact, I can often be found working hours upon hours trying to accomplish a goal without a single resting period. In the moment, it feels great, but the pendulum often swings equally as hard in the opposite direction.

A better strategy is to be intentional about the periods of time that I work. Some experts suggest that 90-minute sprints are the sweet spot for productivity. After that 90-minutes, remove yourself from the task and do something that will allow you to rest and recharge your batteries. Some ideas may include walking around the office or outside in the fresh air, stopping to have a light conversation with a coworker or friend, and grabbing a bite to eat with your circle of influence. Whatever the activity, be sure to peel yourself away from the work and just relax.

In addition to the small breaks at work, consider taking time in the evening to put down your tasks and simply enjoy the fruits of your labor. Walk with your spouse around the neighborhood, workout in the gym, do crossword puzzles in the backyard, go fishing, watch a movie, listen to music, meditate, or relax in a rocking chair with a cool refreshing drink.

Remove the Technology

While technology has allowed for more access to people and information, it also has a way to tether us to the world. During our moments of downtime and relaxation, consider removing cell phones, laptops, tablets, and any other device that competes for our attention. Enjoy dinner with the family and set an imaginary forcefield around the table where any electronic doodad immediately dies. No distractions, just good ‘ol family time. This can easily extend to date night as well. 

Get Alone With Yourself

Outside of the physical and mental decompression that happens during a break, there is the opportunity to reconnect with yourself. For me, I find alone time to be extremely beneficial toward understanding what I want or need in that moment. My desire to be social often requires that I give a lot of myself. Be it a listening ear, words of encouragement, or the ability to see someone else’s perspective, I find that I’m using energy to relate and support others.

While I have some pretty amazing friends, co-workers, family members, business partners, and customers, I recognize that I have to get away from everyone in order to “zero out” or bring everything back into balance and alignment with who I am inside. One friend calls this my “Michael Jackson moment.”

Apparently, looking back over the previous 37 days, I spent a great deal of time seeking balance and solace, but it could have just as easily be achieved on a more consistent basis. Consider an alone time in the early morning or late at night where you just write in the journal. Use this time to detach from other people’s wants, needs, and focus this time on giving you what YOU need. 

Rest on Sunday

As a child, I was taught that God rested on Sunday. As a result, we too are instructed to take the seventh day for ourselves. This means no work, no chores, no nothing whatsoever for the entire day. In writing that, I already know how much of a challenge it will be to sit still and chill when there is so much work to be done. However, based on this past season, I completely understand why it’s necessary.

Take a Real Vacation

This is another hard one for me because I feel guilty taking time off work, but I recognize the value of taking a real vacation. Now, it’s not required that you go somewhere fancy, but I found my first trip to Mexico was such an amazing adventure. I came back to the world feeling completely relaxed, rejuvenated, and ready to tackle my mission and purpose. Because I was out of the country, my mobile phone didn’t allow for calls or the Internet. It was just me, my friends, and the experience of an all-inclusive resort. Wow!

Now, as an active member of a travel club, with nearly 30 trips under his belt, this suggestion has been practiced and appreciated plenty of times. However, it is important to note that a real vacation means NO WORK. Get away from the office, emails, voicemail, and anything that will distract you from enjoying the moment in paradise. 


As I bring this article to a close, I do hope that you got something of value out of it. As I have learned from this recent experience, you have to give yourself permission to take a break or your body, mind, and spirit will take one for you. You can’t be your best if you’re running on fumes. Just as being productive is valuable toward your business or mission in life, so too is a period of rest.

Until next time...


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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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