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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?


1 Lori Lavender Luz { 01.31.17 at 11:33 am }

I see it as more of a disruptor. I like it when I get in the flow and it carries my work. I don’t want to give that up.

2 Chris { 01.31.17 at 2:34 pm }

I’m definitely a no break kind of person. I have worked from home for over 12 years and I prefer to work straight through. On days when I have to take a break I feel out of sorts. My husband feels this makes me not suited to for working at home. I happen to think I’m very well suited to it but I didn’t take breaks when I worked outside the home unless forced either…I don’t care to lose momentum!

3 em { 01.31.17 at 2:41 pm }

For writing, I like breaks as if I find getting my mind off of the work helps my subconcious solve any problems that are happening or float to the top potential problem spots.

But I tend to just sit in the quiet. I think it would be hard to read and then get back to my own stuff.

4 Jill A. { 01.31.17 at 2:56 pm }

I like breaks. I’ve always liked breaks. I accomplish more by taking a break and getting my second wind.

Of course, now I am retired. I do nothing. Except when I take a break from all the relaxing nothing. Then I do something. 😀 I have to admit, I take less breaks now that I am older doing nothing than I did when I was younger and busy.

5 Jenn P { 01.31.17 at 3:39 pm }

How about allowing yourself to stare idly around while you eat? Relax your eye muscles by looking into the distance. Sit outside when weather permits. I’d be more apt to take a walk break and eat while I work. Find what works for you.

6 Sharon { 01.31.17 at 4:46 pm }

It depends on what I’m doing. If I’m in a state of flow (as described by researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi), I’m better off not taking breaks. If not — and more often, I’m not — I do better with breaks.

7 loribeth { 01.31.17 at 8:23 pm }

I’m not sure. As Sharon says above, I suppose it depends on what I’m doing & what frame of mind I’m in. When I was working — or even now, when I’m doing something around the house — there would be times when I’d just want to push through & get the job done, even if I was tired, because if I stopped, that would probably be the end of things. But sometimes a nice little break can be a very welcome respite. There were times at work when I felt like I was living from break to break.

But (unlike your friend in the army) I am not good at naps, even catnaps. I do nap, but not very often. I don’t like the groggy way I feel when I get up.

8 Jessie { 02.01.17 at 12:20 am }

I’m completely ADHD, so I cannot function without breaks!

9 nonsequiturchica { 02.01.17 at 2:32 pm }

I think that maybe the breaks are hard because instead of just letting your mind relax, you are reading a book and having to turn your attention to something completely different. Maybe taking a walk would be a better break?

10 Click { 02.02.17 at 2:59 pm }

It depends on what I’m doing for work and what I’m doing on my break. At work I never feel like my breaks are long enough. I think I’d rather have more but shorter, rather than two 15 minute ones and one 30 minute one for lunch. I’d like to have ten minutes out of every ninety to just zone out and not stare at a computer screen for a while.

At home I get sucked into doing things quite easily, so time will pass and I’ll suddenly realise I’ve not taken a break. I deliberately set myself a half hour slot and then I have to do something else to keep me from getting too engrossed.

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