You Deserve a Break

We have all be hearing for years about the importance of taking breaks throughout the workday. There are dozens of apps to “help” you do so from timers to focus sessions to just plain-old turning off all notifications.

We are told to take a break every 20 minutes or so of work or five times a day or in between meetings. And, of course, there are all the health benefits of not sitting for so many hours on end, of getting up and moving, of clearing your mind so that you can re-focus more easily or be more creative when you get back to work.

All of this is sound advice backed by science, blah, blah, blah.

But what if you don’t have meetings? What if you don’t work in an office aside from the one you created in your home? How are independent writers and free­lancers supposed to heed all this advice? I have struggled with this for years—ever since I gave up my office job to go solo.

I’m the sort of person who can sit down at my desk or on the sofa where I sometimes work and not move for four, six, eight hours depending on hunger and the state of my bladder.

I hyper-focus, at times becoming so involved in my work that I literally won’t move

anything but my hands and head for an hour. This is really unhealthy.

But when I’m editing a good book that captures my interest, or writing my own story, well, I simply become so engrossed the world and time just slips away.

The question is, how to force myself to get up and move. How do I stop reading or writing, clear my mind and then get back to it?

Number one is to acknowledge that it’s not easy, perhaps not even something I will want to do at the time, but that it is important to do nonetheless.

The trick is to find natural stopping points. For me, that would be the end of a scene or a chapter. The point is to find a moment when your focus has broken and you now need to move on to something else—reading a new scene, looking back through your notes, analyzing what you’ve just read or written. The moment you begin to turn to something else stop. Write down what you were about to do and note the time. Then—and here’s the really hard part—get up.

Go make yourself a cup of tea, grab a snack (something healthy, please, like a piece of fruit, a handful of baby carrots, or a small bowl of nuts).. If the kitchen isn’t far, take the long way there—perhaps going up and down the stairs a few times or outside

and around the house—or even better, around the block.

Your break doesn’t have to be long; ten or fifteen minutes would be ideal, five is acceptable. The point is to move, shift your focus and think about something completely different for a spell—-and no, hoping onto Facebook doesn’t count unless you do so on your phone while walking (that will also ensure that you don’t get lost there too). And if you do do that, please give your eyes a little rest when you don’t stare at a screen.

When you come back to work, note down the time once again and check what you should be doing from your earlier note. Hopefully, after a week of doing this, you’ll feel more comfortable taking breaks. After about three weeks, you won’t feel right if you don’t—at least, that’s the goal.

To incentivize longer breaks at lunch, or in the middle of the afternoon, I like to go out for a walk and listen to an audiobook or podcast. That way I make sure I walk for at least 20-30 minutes. Do this every day and your body (and mind) will thank you for many years to come.

Oh, and one more thing, I fully believe in bribing myself. For every minute I

spend on a break, I give myself ten cents. If I take a ten minute break I’ve got a dollar. Four of those and I’ve got a fancy coffee from my local coffee shop—which I will walk to get it. Whatever works for you, do it. It will definitely be worth it in the end.

Merry
 

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. Meredith’s second favorite pastime is teaching others to write.

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