We were not built to sit all day! We are active, creative creatures. But we are so used to working straight through without stopping that we may have forgotten how to take a break. It’s hard to get into the habit, but a little advance preparation will help you enjoy your break and return to the work refreshed.

If you missed it I have a post about why taking a break is essential for your creativity, productivity and sanity – HERE.  And a post about preparing for a longer break – HERE.

Steps to taking a short break:

  1.  Decide to take a break and stick to that decision. You have to make an active decision to take care of yourself.
  2. Pick one doable thing to finish before you take a break. Choose what it is and do that one thing.(Unless you are just DONE and you need to get away from the desk immediately. In that case, walk away from the computer!)
  3. Jot down one thing you will work on when you return. What are you going to pick up and work on? What are you going to finish when you return?  If you pick something small and doable it helps.  This gets you back into the work instead of taking a break and then returning to your desk and surfing on the internet.
  4. Prep yourself to enjoy the break.  What can you leave behind?  What would you like to gain from the little break?  I know this seems silly but it works!  Tell yourself, “I am going to let go of this worry about the meeting tomorrow. I am as prepared as I can be. I am going to take a break and shift my focus so I can return with more energy.” A relaxing productive break is more likely to happen than if you wander to the break room or walk outside without intention.
  5. Pick your break activity.
  6. Set a clear time for your break and stick to it. If you head out for an hour and return two hours later and then feel behind, you will be less likely to trust yourself in the future. If you head out for a half-hour lunch and decide instead to just grab your lunch and return to your desk, guess what?  You didn’t have a break!
  7. See if you can think of one small thing you are grateful for in your work. What is a positive thing you get to do or experience in your work? Who benefits from your work? What does having a job allow you do, or who does it allow you to support and care for?  Remember that one thing as you head back into work.
  8. You’re ready. Now, get up and move your body and relieve your mind!

Quick Break Ideas

It does not have to be a big production!

  • Stop working, close your eyes and think of three things you are grateful for.
  • Stop working, close your computer and take three deep breaths.
  • Walk around the block alone.
  • Walk around the block with a co-worker.
  • Head to a café for a half an hour – alone, with a co-worker, or perhaps with a book or a journal.
  • Take a timed nap. (Could be during your lunch break or in your car.)
  • Head to the bathroom and splash cold water on your face. Or put the toilet seat down and sit in the stall alone for a few minutes. (Really! This is a great place to take a few breaths or even meditate.)
  • Leave to get lunch and eat it out of the office.
  • Run one FUN errand
  • Eat your lunch away from your desk.
  • Take a personal day and do something you love doing for the WHOLE day.
  • Pick your kids up early from school and go do something you all love to do (ice cream or the park perhaps).
  • Stand up away from your desk and stretch.

How to enjoy the break

To experience the benefits of taking a break, please don’t think about work. And don’t feel bad: you are entitled to a break.

Remind yourself that the work will be there when you get back. Remember to breathe. Slow down during the break. Do something you enjoy. Feel grateful during the break for the experience.

If you feel guilty about taking breaks, practicing taking very short breaks will help you reduce your guilt over time. Taking breaks will make you a more enjoyable person to be around and a better co-worker too.

What can you add to this list?  What quick breaks do you take to get away from work?