Contrary to popular opinion (and what social media would lead you to believe), nonstop hustle doesn’t always lead to success.
Though it seems counterintuitive, taking a break is the best way to make career progress. Research shows breaks are essential to improving our moods, overall well-being, and performance capacity.
Here’s how to maximize the power of the pause.
First, shift your mindset about breaks
Downtime isn’t unproductive; it’s essential for progress. When you’re used to operating at a frenetic pace, taking deliberate breaks can seem jarring. But being busy is not the same as being productive. Change your perspective to embrace the gift of giving yourself the time and space to think, feel, and experience as complementary, not contradictory to your career progress. When you make this type of self-care a regular practice, you’ll have greater clarity and enhanced performance and protect, preserve, and improve your well-being and happiness.
Second, create dedicated space for breaks
After you’ve accepted that break can enhance your progress, you need to carve out space regularly for them to occur. Treat your time like the precious commodity it is by taking back your calendar and protecting it. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of to-dos and requests, believing that everything is urgent and important, which seldom is the case. Avoid overbooking yourself with countless and unnecessary meetings and instead simplify, prioritize, and focus your attention on what matters most, saying no to everything else. Doing this will allow you to schedule blocks of uninterrupted time to be quiet, slow down, reflect, and make room for insights.
Next, be picky about how you spend your break time
Once you’ve finally created intentional breaks, be mindful of how you spend them. Resist filling your time with mind-numbing activities like scrolling through your social media, and instead, use that time to replenish yourself. Nourish your body through movement by walking around the block or getting in a quick yoga session. Connect with educational and uplifting podcasts, books, TED talks, articles, and videos to enrich your mind. Recharge your spirit through meditation, prayer, and reflection. Or, since research suggests that sleep deprivation leads to reduced performance and productivity, try using breaks to prioritize rest, even if that means taking a quick catnap.
Finally, use technology to help you stay on track
Let’s face it: technology is woven into the fabric of our careers. And when you’re crunching on a project, it’s easy to get lost in your device. Fortunately, the same tech we rely on to do our jobs can also keep us accountable for our breaks.
If you own a piece of wearable technology like Fitbit or Apple Watch, use its functionality to set a reminder to take regular breaks or prompt you to stand up and move around. Or download a meditation app like Calm or Headspace, so you have instant access to mindfulness sessions at the swipe of your finger.
Even if you can’t give up your screens entirely, you can make them work for you. A new research-based browser extension called breathing.ai is built on state-of-the-art machine learning that uses your webcam to detect changes to your breathing and heart rate indicating stress and then provides personalized break reminders. Users also have access to over 100 brief exercises on breathwork, meditation, movement, or simply a suggested break from the screen, as well as soothing background sounds and calming screen colors.
Taking an intentional break may be the ultimate career hack in a world that glorifies nonstop hustle and grind.
This article has been reprinted with permission from Amy Blaschka’s Forbes page.