Take a Break

Jul 27, 2023

In a world that glorifies the relentless race for productivity, the watch's constant ticking seems to echo an inescapable challenge: to do more, faster. Life has turned into a hamster wheel, where slowing down to take a break feels like an act of rebellion. This frantic dance of multitasking and endless responsibilities threatens the sublime art of doing nothing, viewing inactivity as a human failure.


Since childhood, we have been submerged in the belief that hard work is the passport to success.


At school, the pressure to study endlessly in search of good grades is intense. In the workplace, the extra workload is a constant in the struggle to achieve goals and deadlines. Society glorifies continuous action and associates constant productivity with the volume of work, suggesting that the more we work, the more we accomplish.

But is it really so? Does our well-being, our happiness, increase with the amount of work we accumulate?

The reality is quite different. The pressure of constant, tireless work can lead to physical health problems such as heart disease, hypertension, sleep disturbances, musculoskeletal pain, and a weakened immune system. In addition, chronic stress associated with overwork can contribute to mental health problems such as burnout, anxiety, and depression.

In addition, contrary to what it may seem, working too much can actually decrease productivity. When we are tired, our ability to concentrate, make decisions and solve problems is negatively affected and we can even lose sight of our professional purpose, reducing our productivity.

But even more serious is the impact on creativity at work. When we are constantly under pressure and stress, our ability to think creatively and innovatively is compromised. Downtime is essential for incubating new ideas.

That's why it's vital to recognize the power of balancing work and breaks. This balance is crucial for our physical and mental health, for our overall productivity and, above all, for our happiness. Breaks represent a powerful tool for achieving desired productivity and happiness by harmonizing purpose and increasing creativity.


Pauses and Purpose

Purpose plays a key role in our professional life. Having a purpose in professional life is, in addition to being beneficial, essential for our productivity, focus and well-being.

Pauses are intrinsically linked to purpose. In the frenzy of work and everyday life, it's easy to lose sight of what really matters. When we stop to rest, reflect, or simply exist, we have time to question: Am I heading in the right direction? Is what I'm doing aligned with my values and goals?

These moments of introspection are vital to maintaining our authenticity and integrity in the world of work. Without them, we can easily get sidetracked, getting stuck in jobs and tasks that can take us away from our purpose. By taking a break, we ensure we are on the right track, reorienting ourselves if and when necessary.

Purpose provides a sense of direction, helps us make important decisions and set goals. Knowing what our purpose is allows us to align our daily work with our long-term goals. This alignment increases the impact of our work.

Purpose allows us to easily find the motivation to persevere, even when we face challenges. It helps us stay focused and motivated, as we know that our work contributes to something greater.


Breaks and Creativity

Creativity is the spark that ignites the imagination and the key that unlocks innovation. It's a skill inherent in all of us, a cognitive process that allows us to conceive and develop original ideas, approach problems in innovative ways, and express ourselves in unique ways.

At the heart of creativity is the ability to make new and unusual connections, to see the relationships between things that are seemingly unrelated. It is through this ability to synthesize and reinvent that great ideas, technological advances, beautiful works of art and innovative solutions to complex problems arise.

Creativity is not a gift reserved for a chosen few, such as artists, writers, or inventors. It is a muscle that we all possess and that can, and should, be strengthened with practice. Regardless of who we are or what we do, we all have the ability to be creative. We all have the ability to see the world in a different way, to dream big and to make a difference. That's creativity.

Breaks are the nursery where creativity comes to life.

Constant tension, whether self-imposed or external, tends to stifle our innovative thinking. Creativity doesn't thrive under stress; it needs space to breathe, to explore and express itself.

Moments of pause provide that space, inviting us to connect with our intuition, daydream, and make innovative connections. How many times did the bright idea come up while taking a relaxing bath? How many times has the answer to a challenge presented itself during a morning run? These moments of seeming idleness, when our mind is relaxed and has the freedom to travel unknown paths, are the moments when our creativity can truly flourish.

Drawing inspiration from the ideas of John Cleese (one of the members of the iconic Monty Python comedy group, but who has become an important scholar and advocate of creativity and innovative thinking), it is crucial to understand the importance of switching between the "closed" mode – efficient and task-oriented – and the "open" mode – a more relaxed state, conducive to creative thinking.

 In these breaks, we are able to create a quiet space and dedicate enough time for our mind to focus and rest, allowing our more creative side to take the lead. The pauses are thus more than mere interludes in our day; they are the necessary conditions for innovative thinking to emerge and flourish.


The Power of Breaks in Our Day-to-Day Lives

Breaks play a crucial role in productivity and well-being. They involve disconnecting from the tasks that occupy our day-to-day life, offering our mind and body the opportunity to rest. Pauses allow us to move away from noise and chaos to reflect, recharge, and refocus. It's important to give yourself the opportunity to step away from tasks and responsibilities for a moment.

One of the techniques we can use is the Pomodoro Technique, created and presented by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. As a college student, Cirillo found that by dividing his study time into concentrated 25-minute breaks, separated by short 5-minute breaks, he was able to improve his productivity and ability to focus.

Every four "Pomodoros", periods of 25 minutes, a longer break is taken, usually 15 to 30 minutes. This is an opportunity to relax more deeply, perhaps take a walk in nature, have a coffee with someone, meditate a little, or simply rest. This pattern of work and rest has been shown to be extremely effective in maintaining productivity throughout the day.

The Pomodoro technique is an excellent example of how we can structure our time to enjoy the benefits of regular breaks. True productivity is not a straight, uninterrupted, never-ending road, but rather an alternating path of effort and rest, in which each break is an opportunity to recharge and prepare for the next challenge.

This time of rest not only helps us to relieve stress and tension, but also to process information, make decisions and generate new ideas. Pauses act as a kind of cognitive reset, giving us a new perspective and renewed energy throughout the day.


The Power of "Big Vacation" Breaks

But day-to-day breaks aren't enough. Who among us doesn't miss the "big holidays" at school? Longer breaks are essential to increase reflection, idleness, and rest. What these three "tasks" have in common is that they need time and space.

Now that we are in the middle of summer, we have this time and probably this space so necessary for our physical and mental health and our happiness. Summer, with its long days and inspiring landscapes, invites us to enjoy the present, reconnect with nature and enjoy time outdoors.

Yes, nature. Several studies show that spending time in nature can have a profoundly positive impact on our mental and physical well-being. Spending just 20 minutes in nature can significantly improve our well-being.

Summer vacations are an ideal opportunity to incorporate quality breaks that can help recharge energy and focus, improve overall well-being, and stimulate creativity. Here are some suggestions for activities that can improve the quality of your breaks during the summer holidays:

  1.  Outdoor Activities: Outdoor activities are an excellent way to reconnect with nature and enjoy the summer sun. This can include hiking, biking, picnicking, gardening, or even simply reading a book under the shade of a tree.
  2. Meditation and Yoga: Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga help relieve stress and improve focus and awareness. Even just a few minutes a day can have a significant impact.
  3. Physical Exercise: Exercising regularly not only benefits physical health, but also helps relieve stress and improve mood. It could be something as simple as a daily walk or something more intense like a run or a high-intensity workout.
  4. Reading: Reading is a wonderful way to relax and escape. In addition, it can help expand your knowledge and stimulate creativity.
  5. Art and Creative Hobbies: Participating in creative activities, such as drawing, painting, writing, or even cooking, can be an effective way to relax and stimulate the mind.
  6. Travel and Exploration: If possible, traveling to a new location is an excellent way to get out of the daily grind, experience new cultures, and gain new perspectives.
  7. Quality Time with Loved Ones: Spending quality time with family and friends helps strengthen bonds and provide joy and relaxation.
  8. Disconnect from Technology: Doing a "digital detox" can be beneficial for mental health. This may include limiting the use of electronic devices, avoiding social media, or simply hanging up the phone for a while.

Remember, what matters most is choosing activities that bring you joy and allow you to relax and recharge. Breaks aren't just about doing anything; They are about doing things that nourish your mind, body and spirit.


The Return to Work

By allowing ourselves to rest and completely disconnect from work during the holidays, we create space for new ideas and inspirations to emerge. Our subconscious continues to process and integrate the information we have accumulated, working on challenges in the background while consciously resting and having fun.

When we return to work after a meaningful break, we often feel fresher, more energized, and more focused. This rejuvenation not only improves our productivity, but also allows us to approach tasks with a new level of creativity and innovation.

Taking advantage of quality rest time can also help us reassess our priorities and set clear goals for the future. It can give us the opportunity to reflect on our progress, consider where we would like to be, and create a plan to get there.

This process of re-evaluation and goal setting is particularly useful when we face challenges or changes in the work environment. It can help us identify innovative solutions, adapt to new circumstances and maintain long-term motivation.

In addition, a rested and rejuvenated mind is more resilient. By taking care of ourselves through proper rest and relaxation, we are actually cultivating our resilience. This allows us to better deal with stress, recover more quickly from setbacks, and face challenges more effectively.

Finally, returning to work after a break can also be an opportunity to implement new habits and routines. Maybe you've discovered a new mindfulness practice during the holidays that you'd like to incorporate into your daily routine. Or maybe you've realized that you need to take more breaks during the day to maintain your focus and energy.


In short, breaks, both daily and longer vacations, are essential for our productivity, well-being and creativity. They allow us to replenish our energies, reflect and reorient ourselves, and prepare for future challenges with a clearer, more focused mind.

So the next time you feel guilty about taking a break, remember the power that breaks have. Not only do you deserve a break, but your work will also benefit from it.



Nuno Gomes

Master Coach