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How Can Taking Some Time Off Be Good for Business?

Creative business owners are often celebrated for wearing multiple hats and logging numerous hours. They are seen as true work horses living the American Dream – but working without letup can be bad for you and your business. Not to mention family, friendships and marriages. Working without rest can jeopardize the business, your health and the life you’re working toward.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of overdoing it, since time and money in the early days of a creative business is tight, but also because few of us understand one of the biggest secrets of productivity–the refueling principle. It comes down to this: You get more done quicker when you step back and recharge the brain and body. Studies show that performance increases after breaks. And that is breaks of all durations. Everything from extended vacations down to minibreaks of 30 seconds. It all helps.

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A helpful parable

This reminds me of a favorite story that I quote often.

An American traveler was on a safari to Africa. He was the typical Type-A American tourist. He had done his research about this trip and had a schedule, maps, and a clear agenda of the things he needed to see and do while he was on is trip. Some local people had even been hired to carry some of the traveler’s supplies as they trekked throughout the land—it was some serious planning.

On the first morning, they all woke up early and traveled fast and covered a great distance. The second morning was the same—woke up early, traveled fast, and traveled far. Third morning, same thing. But on the fourth morning, the local hired help refused to move. Instead, they sat by a tree in the shade well into the morning. The traveler became incensed and irate and said to his translator, “This is a waste of valuable time. Can someone tell me what’s going on here?” The translator looked at him and calmly answered, “They’re waiting for their souls to catch up with their bodies.”

Even those who aren’t small business owners or Type-A tourists know that you can only run so long before you need to take a rest. We all need to stop and let our souls catch up with our bodies.

The time off taboo

For most entrepreneurs rest is considered taboo. We put it off for a future that never arrives. It’s as if each day is an Ironman triathlon that requires us to crawl across the finish line. Real productivity though doesn’t come from being glued to the sewing machine, yarn or keyboard every waking moment but from feeling energized. And feeling energized results in a focused and organized brain. Humans are just like smartphones or the other devices we love so much –  We have to be recharged, or we run out of juice and can’t work at all.

Recharging might look different to everyone and look different each day. You might take breaks during the workday or try a diversion that shuts off your “work brain” when you get home at night. Weekend activities, vacations and sleep are also great ideas for recharging your mental batteries.

What do you do during the day to take mini breaks form work? How do you recharge on weekends or vacations?

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