As a creative, it’s easy to get caught up in your craft. Sometimes, I find myself overwhelmed with to-do lists and sticky note reminders. Living life in “grind mode” can make you feel like you’re really killin’ sh*t; until you realize you’re stressed, anxious, and lost your motivation to work.
The grass is always greener on the other side, right? Why take breaks when you can just power through it now, get ahead of the game, and then maybe you can consider resting when you’ve earned it, right? WRONG.
All work and no play isn’t as sustainable as we like to think it is. Even the boss needs a break.
Increase your productivity
Developing a healthy work-life balance can enhance your life and transform you into a better worker.
Finding your sweet spot for the right amount of work and rest can actually increase your productivity. You can accomplish more at work when you allow your mind the time and space to explore things outside of "accomplishing". No matter what kind of work you do, there is always some goal to achieve or some metric to meet. As humans, we are very goal driven, in general.
Constantly aiming to reach these heights, however, can put stress on the mind and the body. As THEE Simone Biles declared, "I have to focus on my mental health. We have to protect our minds and our bodies, not just go out and do what the world wants us to."
If a Black woman with 32 Olympic and World Championship medals can find the time to take rest days, why can't you?
Increase your creativity
Granting yourself time to rest from work can increase your creativity.
After stepping away for a while, you can return to your tasks with a renewed perspective; one that may have been impossible to realize without taking the time to truly relax your mind.
During my 28 Day Black History Month Challenge, I noticed I was running out of ideas after producing a new piece of artwork every day. I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and was able to build my muscle for consistency, but my ideas started becoming a little less creative toward the end. Once I finished the challenge and took a break from creating art for a few days, I could easily generate TONS of new ideas.
If taking rest days can improve the creativity of an artist (someone whose entire job is to be creative) they can improve anyone's creativity!
Reach Your Full Potential
When you’re well rested, you give yourself the power to show up in your full potential.
Operating from levels of stress and anxiety limit you from being your best self. You may become sluggish, irritable, and unmotivated –not very ideal cups to pour from. Despite these energies limiting you from doing your work, they limit you from experiencing joy in life, too.
To perform your best at work, you have to feel your best internally.
How To Find Balance
Finding your ideal work- life balance doesn’t have to be as difficult as it may seem, though. (Notice, I say your work-life balance. This equilibrium is different for everyone; it’s all about what works best for you.)
One of the easiest ways to cultivate this balance is by adding brain breaks to your schedule. Brain breaks are short breaks between tasks that allow the brain space to “breathe”. During these breaks, you can stretch, practice deep breathing, or do nothing at all! A good brain break can range anywhere from 15 mins to an hour - it’s up to you to decide!
Top 3 Priorities
Another method for finding balance in your work life is by prioritizing your tasks in sets of 3. Each day, analyze the tasks that you can accomplish. Pick the 3 most important tasks and complete them in order of importance. Once these tasks are completed, revisit your list, note if your remaining tasks are urgent, and repeat the process. Sometimes, you’ll notice a lot of activities can be completed later and some may not need to be completed at all!
Maybe you’re still not convinced that you need to take a break.
Maybe you think that resting will make you fall behind. Working to no end is how you’ll prove yourself to your superiors. Other people can take time off but not you- you haven’t earned it yet. You figure that if you take the day off, you’ll be replaced.
Don't Burn Out
Thinking and living like this is how you reach the point of burnout. Burnout is a condition that refers to being mentally worn out or emotionally exhausted from work. Sometimes, working hard is necessary; but having an unhealthy work-life balance can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety. Being stressed and anxious will make it even more difficult to perform at work.
This is why we must normalize taking breaks.
Shift Your Focus
When you’re constantly focused on one way of solving a problem, exploring alternatives becomes increasingly difficult. However, when you give yourself permission to step back from the problem, you give yourself the grace to reroute your thoughts.
Have you ever realized how you get some of your best ideas in the shower or while driving? It’s not a coincidence! This happens because when your brain isn’t actively focused on a task, you’re able to think spontaneously and your mind can run free.
Connect With Yourself
Incorporating breaks into your schedule also allows you to stay connected with yourself. In those moments that you give yourself permission to pause, you are performing some of the most important work there is to be done.
Briefly stepping away from work is kind of like taking a second to check on yourself. How are you feeling? What thoughts are sitting in your subconscious? You probably can’t answer these questions while writing a report, listening to a podcast, and eating half a sandwich all at the same time, huh?
How To Avoid Burnout
Many people find themselves becoming victims of burnout, but that doesn’t mean you will, too. What sets you apart is the fact that you're taking out the time to be proactive instead of reactive; you're learning how to prevent burnout before you ever get there.
I love that for you!
One of the most important things to remember when facing a difficult task is this: if you are struggling to find a solution to a problem, step away and come back to it later. Your brain gradually zones out and stops registering a stimulus if it remains constant over time. (This is why you can’t feel your watch on your wrist after you’ve been wearing it all day!) After fixating on one thing for an extended period of time, you’ll lose focus and your performance will decline.
Prioritize Self Care
Creating solid self care rituals are a great force against burnout.
Self care doesn’t always have to be extravagant. Spending lots of money on nail or hair appointments and dropping a bag at your favorite store are fun activities, but these options aren’t always realistic for everyone.
The goal of self care is to set aside time to intentionally be with yourself while engaging in something that makes you feel good. Sometimes, self care can look like cleaning and reorganizing your space, turning on your favorite playlist and vibin’ out or it can look like (one of my favorites) taking out a journal and writing down whatever you feel. (My “Take Care of You” journals were literally made for this!!) Whatever you do, make sure it’s really serving you and gives you time to decompress.
Keep Work At Work
Creating and committing to a work schedule can also become powerful armor against burnout.
As college students, many of us worked and slept in the same space. Your bedroom was the office, the gym, the lounge, and more. For those that work from home, your bedroom may be your office, as well. Because of this, it can be hard to know when to cut work off. You figure you can spend another hour or two working in your bed before going to sleep and eventually it becomes a habit that you can’t get rid of.
It’s important that we clock out of work both mentally and physically. Once the work day is over, it should be over until the next work day begins. Most of the time, the work can wait. It can be so enticing to just keep working whenever you can so you can get ahead the next day – but are you really “getting ahead” if you have to do this every day?
Whatever your work schedule is, it’s important that you stick to it. Creating boundaries to protect your peace is integral to maintaining good mental health.
Connect With Your "Why"
Developing a healthy work-life balance and adding breaks into your schedule ensure that you remain connected with your “why”.
Your “why” is literally why you do what you do; it is the motivating factor behind your goals and your work.
What is Important To You?
When you have time in your schedule to reflect, you can analyze whether or not you’re doing work that’s important to you.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in work that we forget about ourselves and what we truly want in life. So many people find themselves working jobs they hate and carry so much stress in their bodies. This stress can cause health complications down the road and can negatively impact those around you.
Giving yourself time aside from your tasks is
Unfortunately, sometimes we have to do what we have to do.
It’s not always promised that we can work our dream jobs right away. But even then, it's still important to know why you do what you do. If you notice that you aren't heading in the direction you desire to be, you now have time to reroute your trajectory (you know, since you've been taking breaks and stuff).
We create our own realities.
At any moment, you can make the decision to create your life any way you desire.
Intensify Your Motivation
When you create the space to connect with your purpose, you can bring new power to your "why". You may notice different things that motivate and inspire you and you can use these new discoveries to push yourself even further.
After reflecting on what's important to you and analyzing whether or not your work is aligning with these ideals, you can develop a stronger level of focus and catapult yourself to your goals and aspirations.
How To Connect With Your Why
Allowing yourself the time to discover what drives you can renew your perspectives on work and life, in general. I recommend grabbing a journal and asking yourself these 5 questions:
- "What are my core values?"
- "What am I passionate about?"
- "What is my mission?"
- "What makes me feel alive?"
- "What are my innate strengths?"
Reflect on these questions and the answers you receive from yourself and you will discover hints toward your purpose.