Making breaks inviting

I continue to be puzzled by my reluctance to take breaks, even though working straight through makes my neck pain worse. I’ve been more consistent about setting a chime to go off every 15 to 25 minutes—that’s progress. But I keep ignoring it when it rings.

What I’m noticing:

I get impatient.  A sense of urgency strikes when I hear the bell. “Let me just finish this thought.” “Let me just finish reading this post.” “Let me just finish going through this latest batch of emails. Then “Let me just” turns into a bunch more things and the break doesn’t happen.

There’s a belief in there—a fear?—that I’ll lose focus or momentum if I stop. While this is true for some tasks, I suspect it’s less of an issue than I think, at least if the break is a brief, physical one—away from the computer, no reading. I’m even wondering whether, far from delaying my progress, a break would restore perspective. I’m vulnerable to hyperfocus, which can turn into gear-grinding.

Some guesses about what might help:

I need something inviting to draw me into breaks. The break-reminder chime hits me as a negative thing, something I’m not in the mood for. How can I shift to thinking of it as something I want to do?

I could use impatience as a tipoff. That buzz of annoyance is a clue that I’m hyperfocused, rather than in flow. When the chime goes off, my reaction might help me distinguish between the two. “Impatient? Hmm—remember, that’s hyperfocus—which means you really will work better after a pause.”

I need variety. This may be why I keep skipping the three sighs technique, despite its simplicity. Simple is good, but always doing the same thing is boring.

So my experiment is to…

Alternate among stretching; self-massaging; walking down the hall for a glass of water; tossing Muse Cubes; taking a few deep breaths; rolling on the floor…whatever seems easiest and called-for in the moment. Is this too many options? Nah, it’s manageable. I’m keeping a list of simple stretches and acupressure points at my work area so that I don’t have to think about this.

Observe whether my beliefs and assumptions about breaks are true. Do breaks pull me off task? Do they do the opposite and restore perspective? Does my neck improve when I pause more? Does my mood? As I get more data, I can adjust the plan.


One Comment

  1. Jimmy says:

    Taking breaks is really helpful if you want to get major tasks done. Well, I’m speaking from experience. There were times when I pushed myself to the limit by not taking breaks and I noticed how my body reacted. Got neck and back pains, something that I really don’t want to experience again.

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