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Learning to Take a Break

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Learning to Take a Break

When a big part of your job involves writing, and especially when you work from home like I do, you kind of start to feel like you did back when you were at school or university.  

No matter what you’re doing or where you are there is pretty much always some ‘assignment’ or ‘task’ at the back of your mind that you know needs doing. So, when I get a rare quiet moment at home, where nobody wants my attention or my time, I take advantage of it.

Like today … It’s a lazy winter’s day, clear and sunny (although sunny days aren’t really conducive to writing in my opinion, but anyway), my dog is asleep beside me, and my house, save for the ticking of the clock on the wall, is mercifully quiet. It’s an almost perfect moment to sit down and bust out the articles that have been weighing at the back of my mind for the past few days (the ones whose deadlines are edging dangerously close). Only from my peaceful spot, I have a perfect view of my backyard where there is currently a rather large (and I must say, cuddly looking) kookaburra, scrounging about for a late lunch. If you’d asked me yesterday if my yard had many worms in it, I probably would have told you “No”, but watching this kookaburra swoop down time and time again to gobble up worms over the past thirty minutes has shown me that it is practically infested.

Now I’m faced with a new problem, because even though my house is empty and quiet, and even though my dog is sleeping and not even snoring, mind you, watching a kookaburra catch his dinner is somehow just so much more interesting than my computer screen. And, although I have tried to refocus myself for the last half hour, somehow my eyes just keep being drawn back to little ‘Kookie’ (I’ve had time to name him in my procrastination) and his adventures.

This got me thinking … I think that maybe in this busy world with our demanding businesses and personal lives we need to get better at putting aside the schedule every now and then and learn to embrace a little spontaneous break. Because running your own business is exhausting, don’t get me wrong, it has its many advantages and rewards, but even still, people don’t open up their own business so that they can relax more. I could bore you with the many statistics around concentration that say things like adults can really only focus on one thing for a period of twenty minutes, but I won’t. Because this isn’t about stats and figures and studies, this is just about freeing yourself up and being willing to take a break when the mood takes you or when a kookaburra decides to make your backyard his own personal restaurant.

Your business is important to you, I get that, but in order to be truly happy you need to have a healthy work-life balance, and in reality, that will look a little different to each person. For some people that means putting away your laptop when your kids want to have a tea-party, for others it might mean a full-body massage when you’re starting to feel too tense, or maybe saying yes to that last-minute invite for drinks with your friends. Whatever it may be; however, it might look to you, we need to understand that we can’t schedule everything in our lives.

My articles are important, and they seriously need to be written, but they’ll be here tomorrow … And tomorrow it’s forecasted to rain, so I’m feeling much more optimistic about their completion. Your work matters but so does your happiness, and to be honest, once your mind goes to that far off place, you’re going to have a pretty hard time getting it back anyway, not to mention any work you try to do at that time will probably be subpar at best.

Anne Lamott, an American novelist, puts it like this, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” Sometimes we just need to ‘unplug’ for a moment, regardless of the deadlines and our piling workload, and just follow our fancies. And, you know what, when you do ‘switch yourself back on’ I’ll bet that you’ll be much happier and more focused than you were before.

So now, instead of doing all the work I was supposed to do, I’m sitting with a cup of coffee watching a kookaburra who seems totally content to set up base in my yard and writing about his worm-catching escapades … And when I’m done with that, I’m going to put the computer away and just take a break. Maybe you should too.

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