Taking time out when you’re busy? Terrible idea.
Some days it feels like if you stop for even 5 minutes you’ll never get back on track again. I remember some wise words I heard once (although I can’t remember exactly who said them) that if you’re too busy to take a 5 minute break, you should take a 10 minute break. It might seem counterintuitive (and in the moment it’s really hard to do), but here’s why I think pretty much everyone could use a “time out”, and come out ahead after.
Think about the concept of a “time out”. Whether it’s in the context of sports, or parenting, the idea is the same. Take a few minutes to remove yourself from all the stimulation and things happening around you, have a think about what’s going on, and emerge from your huddle – with yourself or your team – ready to focus and go on to the next step with a clear mind.
My husband and I recently took a mini-break (2 extra days) after a conference to really take a “time out” with no internet, no phones, no work of any kind and mostly no clocks. We went to a gorgeous place by a lake with some friends, and spent the time visiting, laughing, reading, watching a campfire and sleeping. And now, I remember why those little time outs are such a good idea.
1. A time out helps you break your habit cycles
It’s hard to see what you’re doing until you actually take a step back from it. Once you hit the pause button, it’s much easier to get some perspective. In our regular routines, we tend to eat at the same times, work at the same times, do the same things without even really realizing it. For efficiency, we put a huge number of basic tasks and decisions on autopilot, which helps us conserve energy. When we step outside those patterns, we sort of jolt our brains awake again, and reactivate our conscious decision making.
2. A time out lets you unplug from the world and heal your spirit a little
I find I’m very affected by things that are happening in the world around me. I can’t watch regular television news too often as I get too upset and depressed with all the negative things they focus on. I try to make sure what I take in from social media is balanced in terms of what people are struggling with and what is going well or inspiring or interesting. Completely unplugging from everyone else for a little while allows you to step into a bubble, and let yourself really rest.
3. A time out in nature can help recharge your batteries quicker
I like to think of time in nature like plugging your iPad into the charger that’s actually made for it (and yes, I get the irony of the technology reference about why we should unplug). You charge way faster if you’re using the right attachment. There is so much visual, audio, emotional stimulation in our homes and cities and lives. It’s hard to quiet your mind and body when you’re in the midst of so much going on. So unplugging and getting out into the green space where the stimulation is completely different is a great way to help your system relax.
4. A time out can fire up your creativity and fill you with new ideas
When we’re super focused on what we’re already doing, it’s much harder to create enough blank canvas for new ideas to paint themselves onto. It’s the quiet time that lets you hear the great ideas quietly knocking on your door. I know every time I take a time out, I get flooded with fun, new ideas that get me all fired up to jump back into the thick of things when my time out is up.
5. A time out can remind you what you love so much about your life
Doing something different for a little while is a great way to break the cycle of behaviours you’re not loving. BUT it can also be an opportunity to remind yourself what you love about your life. What do you miss most about your space, your routines, your people when you’re away from them? I often find when I come back from a trip or a retreat, I pay more attention and fully appreciate some of the little details (And big details!) about how I’m living my life.
When was the last time you gave yourself a time out?
Stop for a second, and take a couple of deep breaths while you think about that. When was the last time you gave yourself a gift of a time out? It doesn’t have to be days at a time, even an hour in the middle of a busy day or week can make a huge difference. If it’s been a while, and especially if you’re feeling stressed out, harried, frazzled, tired or less than patient, take a minute right now and plan when you’re going to take your next time out. Then actually put it in your calendar, and take a few moments to think about what wonderful thing you’re going to do to recharge your batteries.