As we collectively attempt to embark on Taking Breaks from Work in honor of celebrating the holidays with our families and friends, I take a break from my own pre-holiday workload to admonish you: SERIOUSLY, TAKE A DAMN BREAK this holiday season. Do it like you mean it. Do it like Santa is real, and he'll remove a present from underneath the tree every time you sneak back into your work email to "just take care of one thing real quick." Do it like you're being scored on how good you're doing at being "on break," and a bad score will transform itself into an extended bout of toilet-embracing food poisoning brought on by Aunt Edna's under-cooked meatloaf. Do it like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson is standing behind you, waiting to smilingly pummel you at the slightest mention of spreadsheets, wireframes, project deadlines, client calls, pursuits, upcoming meetings, or even mere P-R-O-D-U-C-T-I-V-I-T-Y.
We are trained to push ourselves hard. In modern society, being a "hard worker" is a badge of honor — something you trumpet at the very top of your resume. Increasingly, in our technology-riddled daily lives, we're conditioned to believe work should never end.
I am a hard worker, and I'm generally quite proud of it. It means I'm doing right by my colleagues and clients. It means I'm trustworthy, and it means people can ultimately count on me to deliver on my commitments. If you too are a hard worker, you too should be proud of yourself. But the thing is, being a hard worker — especially one who doesn't give him or herself occasional and genuine breaks from said work — doesn't always mean we're always doing right by ourselves.
If you ask anyone I've ever supervised or trained, they'll readily tell you that I regularly berated them to Take Breaks. (In my nice, well-meaning-big-sister-to-everyone sort of way, of course.) Which is why it's summarily hilarious that I'm often terrible at letting myself take breaks.
When it comes to working, I sometimes push myself too hard. I'll metaphorically chain myself to my computer for hours at a time. I'll forego doing things that matter to my personal life in favor of doing whatever it is that will help me feel Accomplished and Satisfied about my work-related To Do list. While that kind of behavior undeniably shows a strong work ethic, it's also undeniably nonsense. It's not healthy. It leaves me occasionally feeling like a failure in the personal realm. It doesn't help me cultivate a feeling of inner balance or peace — rather, it often throws me into a sad-faced panic when, at the end of the day, I realize all the things I neglected to do FOR MYSELF.
I'm always telling myself to take more breaks. I'm also still failing regularly at it. But I'm proud of the fact that I've been doing a little better over the past couple weeks. And I'm very proud of the fact that John and I have sworn to one another that — when we head to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, for our own holiday/family vacation — we're not even bringing our damn computers.
So, this holiday season, do yourself a favor and TAKE A TRUE BREAK. Use the opportunity to remind yourself how genuinely beneficial breaks are for our bodies, our minds, our souls, and our relationships with the people around us. When you come back from your break, remind yourself to take breaks during your regular, non-holiday-themed life, too. Breaks bring us back to ourselves — to a core that still exists outside of who we are in our professional lives. Breaks let us breathe. So, this holiday season, give yourself the best gift ever: an honest-to-goodness break.
With that said, I'm taking my own advice and signing off for the holidays. Look for my next post-Mexico blog on Wednesday, January 17. I hope you all have the best holiday breaks imaginable, with no questionable meatloaf anywhere in sight.