You Need To Take Intentional Breaks From Productivity

I have always been a “productive” person. Before there were thousands of articles on morning routines and daily exercise. I gravitate toward structure, toward striving.

Even back in college in the 1990’s, I remember walking through a silent campus at 8am. To get a head start on my chemistry lab work. My roommate just waking up as I came back to our room hours later.

I also love setting goals for myself. I always have something in mind.Sometimes its a wish. Sometimes its a logical next step, like a promotion. It is something that I have done for myself since I can remember. Since before it was a “thing.”

But there is a dark side to all this striving for goals, all this unrelenting productivity. Sometimes, the pursuit of goals can slip into the pursuit of perfection. We can beat ourselves up if we don’t reach our goals in the time we laid out. The goal itself hardly even becomes a reward. Reaching the goal is a way to avoid beating ourselves up.

But perfection is unattainable, as we all know.

For those of us that are relentless strivers, we need to plan a break in productivity. A specific time where we stop achieving and take some time to experience. Do things that enrich your life but don’t “accomplish” anything.

Here are three benefits an intentional break from productivity can provide:

Confirm That Your Goals Are Still The Ones You Want To Achieve

I am on vacation right now. As I write this, I am sitting in the early morning air of Florence, Italy. Soaking up the sounds of the city and the music of the Italian language. But I am writing this morning not because it is a strategic step toward my writing goals. But because I have something to say and feel compelled to say it.

I told myself that I didn’t have to write at all these two weeks if I didn’t want to. But I find that I still do. A reminder that my goal of writing a book is still aligned with my values. With what I want for myself. Instead of driving headfirst toward that goal without taking any time to check in. I know that I am still headed in the right direction.

Prove That You Can Trust Yourself

Sometimes we keep grinding every day because we are afraid. Afraid that if we take one day off, if we take one side step off the path toward our goals, we will never get back on. We will “fall off the wagon” and tumble down into a ditch, never to get up again.

But, that is perfectionist thinking. There is no wagon, and there is no ditch.And the path to your goals is never going to be straight, no matter how much you plan.

So, develop a better relationship with yourself. Take some planned, intentional time off. And then get back to your goals. Believe in yourself. You’ll be even more proud of yourself when you see that you are trustworthy.

Fun Is A Reminder To Enjoy The Journey

Remember fun?

For me, the flip side of being a naturally productive person is that I am not a naturally fun person. Fun requires spontaneity. Fun requires a willingness to close your eyes and walk forward, hands outstretched, and feel your way around.

But spending 2 weeks without structure helps me learn more about myself. Its a reminder of what I enjoy about life. And a way to find new experiences that I didn’t even realize I enjoy.

The most enjoyable part of my trip to Florence has not been a museum or a church. It has been wandering around the city of Florence without any intended destination. While the Duomo is breathtaking, all of the little parts of Florence are even better. Look at all the beautiful doors in this city. The unexpected art on streetcorners. A reminder that not every journey needs a destination to provide value.

Its summer. You are working hard. Make an intentional plan to recharge. To check in on your goals. To prove that you can trust yourself. To have fun.

You will find renewed confidence in your goals and your ability to achieve them. And that is the mindset we all need to get us where we want to go.

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Denver, Colorado, United States

© 2019 Deb Knobelman, PhD.