Sea of Time
I once dated a guy who had served in the army. He said that whenever they were returning to base from a break, they would get to the central meeting point and then toss their bag on the floor and lie down, using it as a pillow for their head. Even if they only had five minutes before they needed to get on the bus, everyone would grab the chance to zone out. They would say in Hebrew “sea of time,” poking fun at the idea that five minutes off in the army is like hours in a spa in the day-to-day world. Who was going to turn up their nose at five minutes? Give up 300 whole seconds to relax?
I don’t think I’d do very well in the army.
I’m currently in the second week of taking a lunch break. I set the timer for 20 minutes and read a book while I eat my cereal. On one hand, I love it. On the other, it makes it that much harder to return to work when the timer sounds.
Rather than appreciate my small sea of time, it feels harder to drag myself back to creating books rather than consuming books.
The break means a loss of momentum. Sure, I “recharge” but at the expense of interrupted energy. If I imagine my work energy sans break, it’s sort of like traveling through sections of Ohio. It’s flat road without a lot of excitement, but it’s relatively easy to move forward. My work energy with a break is like navigating a city… a hilly city like San Francisco. There’s a lot of stopping and starting. There are steep hills to climb but also big drops where my car can coast. Which option helps me cover more ground? I can’t decide. I only know that there are days when I need to talk myself back in the desk chair, and I never had to do that back when I never left the desk chair.
The bulk of my work day is a seven hour stretch. I also return to work an hour or so at night, and often put in time over the weekend. At different jobs, I have needed the break more than others. But in this line of work — thinking and writing — it feels like the break is both a welcome oasis in the day and a real energy disrupter.
Are you more productive with or without breaks?