How to Know When to Take a Break

 I find it really interesting that there are a lot of articles about productivity online, but there are not a lot of articles about when to take a break. Or learning how to calm your mind to be more productive later on. This post is about learning when to be calm, take a break, take a nap, or take some time out for yourself to unplug. Here are a few ways to know when to take a break:

You’re having trouble focusing.

If you’ve tried to start the same task three times in the last 10 minutes and can’t seem to make any progress you may need to step away from that task. Go take a quick walk around the office, grab a cup of coffee, or sit still for a few minutes and think about the task at hand. It may even help to write out a few bullet points about the task just to get get to the next step. 

You feel overwhelmed.

Some of these steps will be similar to what you would do if you can’t focus. Take a walk, grab a glass of water, or take a quick break. You may also want to talk about how you feel with one of your coworkers, or start making a list of what is overwhelming. You can even do a brain dump of absolutely everything you’re thinking about at the time. If you feel your heart racing then you really need to stop what you’re doing so you can calm your mind. Hold your breath for five seconds and release. Repeat this a few times until you feel calm. If you cannot calm after this exercise you may be experiencing a panic attack. Seek the advice of a medical doctor right away if you believe you have experienced a panic attack, or feel any shortness of breath, or rapid heart beat. 

You feel frustrated.

Perhaps you’ve been working on the same task for a while but the outcome isn’t what you hoped. Use your frustration as an opportunity to channel your energy towards something positive. For example, this would be a good time to go work out, take a brisk walk, or start a physical project in your office like filing, or cleaning your desk. When I find myself frustrated at work I typically organize my desk drawers or other areas of my professional working space. 

You are physically exhausted.

This is the most common reason people take a break. But for some being physically exhausted is seen as a weakness. It is not a weakness. When you are physically exhausted your body needs to rest. You need to physically recharge so that you can handle the stressors of the following day. Perhaps you’ve had too much caffeine, or not enough water, or you’re not eating nutritious food. Those factors contribute to physical exhaustion. The greatest factor that contributes to physical exhaustion is lack of sleep. If you’re having a very tough day at work try to take a nap on your lunch break. Give yourself a physical timeout. And avoid future physical exhaustion by giving yourself a bedtime.

As you go about your week pay attention to the times when you need to take a break. You may find that there’s a trend, and you may be able to get in front of the problem and start having a more successful, calm, and productive month.

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