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The Biggest Mistakes You Can Make When Taking a Break

March 2014 was probably the most hectic month I’ve had business-wise. Between multiple client projects and the launch of Be a Freelance Writer, I was–as a good friend described–“crazy busy.”

 

Not that I’m complaining of course. As you know, I LOVE what I do. I’m passionate about my work, my clients, and more importantly, the readers of BeaFreelanceWriter.com. I considered being busy a huge blessing.

 

However, I also knew that I needed a break. So last month, after capping up a hectic Monday to Saturday workweek, I woke up Sunday morning and resolved to do absolutely nothing. I stayed home, had pizza delivered, and binged-watch re-runs of F.R.I.E.N.D.S.

 

I told myself that I would do only mindless stuff that day, and I would wake up on Monday all refreshed and ready to work.

 

Except it completely backfired.

 

Come Monday morning I woke up with a headache from watching too much TV and staying up late, and took it 30 minutes of jogging and 3 cups of coffee to fully turn on “work mode”.

 

So what went wrong? Shouldn’t taking a break from it all be a good thing?

 

Answer: Yes, unwinding is a MUST. But looking back at my actions that week, I realized that there are wrong ways to take a break. I’ve identified the mistakes I made and listed them below. Can you relate?

 

1. Not taking a break sooner – I worked for six straight days so by the end of it all, my body couldn’t muster up the energy to do anything else.

 

What to do instead: Don’t make the same mistake. Instead of pushing yourself to work non-stop, opt to have short frequent breaks in between. For instance, instead of doing client work from Monday to Friday, devote a day (or even half day) somewhere in between to do errands or have some “you” time.

 

2. Being a lazy couch potato – Mistake #2 was opting to spend the day mindlessly staring at the TV. I didn’t even bring myself to cook or go out to buy food.

 

What to do instead: Look, I’m not saying don’t watch TV or don’t do nothing ever, but try to avoid being idle for too long. Consider doing something else in between couch time. Maybe read a book. Or go outside. Or simply spend time with your loved ones. (Which was exactly what I did the following week.)

 

Here’s another reason why taking a mindless break for a long period of time is a bad idea: As writers, part of our job is to get creative and come up with new topics. And in my experience, an idle mind isn’t a good breeding ground for inspiration or creativity.  Cooking up great ideas comes from thinking and experiencing new things– and you can’t really do that if you’re sitting mindlessly on the couch.

 

Over to you

 

But then again, perhaps that’s just me. Every person’s break and productivity patterns are different so my advice may not necessarily apply to you.

 

That said, do you agree that (extended) mindless breaks are bad for writers? And do you have tips when it comes to taking breaks? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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Francesca Nicasio

I'm a freelance writer specializing in blog posts, web content, and press releases for Internet companies. I also love helping aspiring freelance writers build their portfolio and find clients. Download my free ebook 25 Types of Writing Gigs that Pay Well (and How to Find Them) here to get started.

  • Good points, Francesca! Breaks and self-care are SO important, especially for someone like me who sometimes struggles with depression. I’m very strict about having downtime and taking weekends off. I’ve pushed myself hard in the past but the longer I do it, the harder I crash! So I’ve learned the hard way not to push myself so hard for extended periods of time.

    One minor thing I disagree with is that I think consuming entertainment (e.g. watching TV) is very valuable for creative people… Everything you watch/read is absorbed into your creative mind and then can be reformed into something new and beautiful when it’s time to be creative. Nothing is new under the sun, and nothing we see/hear/read/observe is wasted. It all comes around again- you never know when it’ll spark an idea.

    Of course you’re right that it should be in moderation, though! And I’ll admit I can never “just” watch TV; I have to be doing something else at the same time (knitting, sewing, sudoku, etc.) 🙂

  • Great stuff Francesca!

    Your right! We really need to learn how to manage our time better as freelance writers and that includes how we manage our “me time” as well.

    “Me time” is just as important as writing, cold calling, emailing, and marketing. We are not creative and pumping with passion and creativity then all those others things will show it.

    Always enjoy reading your posts!

    Sincerely,

    Freelance Writer and Blogger
    William Ballard

    • Completely agree, William. When I’m not well-rested, the “tiredness” shows in my work.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • Rakiah O.

    “And in my experience, an idle mind isn’t a good breeding ground for inspiration or creativity.” That is on the dot. As writers we need our creative juices flowing most of the time to come up with new ideas, and that can only happen if we are paying attention.

    But, I’m more of a believer in crafting out some “me” time every day, not much but an hour from the entire day at least. Or risk facing a total burn out like you did Francesca.

    • My burnout last month definitely taught me that “me” time is essential.

      Thanks for the comment, Rakiah!

  • I’ve found that rest isn’t about doing nothing. It’s about doing something that gives you energy. TV screens and monitors are energy zappers (although I’m the worst for binge watching TV series). Some things that give me the greatest feeling of rest is playing music (guitar), going for a scenic walk, reading fiction (non-fiction gets my mind going too much), and generally socializing. All of that is mostly active, but active in a completely different way than working.

    • Great point, Joel. Now that you mentioned it, “rest” doesn’t always mean you have to physically be at rest. Sometimes resting means doing something you love–in your case it’s reading or playing the guitar.

      For me, it’s playing with my cat. Like you said, it’s kind of “active” but it certainly makes me more relaxed.

  • Shauna

    Francesca, I give myself “lazy days” when I’m burned out or just not motivated. I do pretty much what you did except I watch Food Network or Lifetime. Easter Sunday I watched a Tyler Perry movie marathon. But sometimes, like you say, it backfires on me and I’m completely in lazy mode the next day.

    Anyway, back to your question. I find that if I use Friday as my catch up day, I don’t get so stressed. I do my grocery shopping, laundry, catch up on emails and newsletters, etc. and don’t expect to get anything “productive” done. Otherwise, you burn out. Having an office within steps of the bedroom can be a detriment as much as it is a blessing!

    • “Don’t expect to get anything “productive” done.” –This is one of the things I’m struggling with. There are days when I feel that I wasn’t “productive” enough, and I then I feel guilty as well. (Gotta work on this one, I admit.)

      Thanks for sharing, Shauna! 🙂

  • Extend mindless breaks can be bad, but sometimes we need them to avoid burn out. But to avoid burn out in the first place, I suggest taking regular breaks or power naps. 🙂 I think rest for me is having a good massage, or having my nails done, or a good fiction book. scented candles are a bonus. 🙂

  • Rosanne

    I definitely agree! Any time I try to just veg out, I end up feeling worse and then I don’t want to do any work. Being active doing something I enjoy or spending time with friends/family is a much better way for me to rest and refresh.

  • Nice post. Totally agree on the part about taking breaks. Very necessary for consistency. 🙂

    • Francesca Nicasio

      *high five* Rob. Thanks for the comment!

    • *High-five* Rob. Thanks for the comment! 😀

  • I don’t think I can ever write for six days non-stop, like you did, Francesca. Well, assuming writing was all you did the whole time. But of course, you said “worked,” which could have included other business-related things. 🙂

    And you’re right. Frequent breaks are a life-saver. From where I stand today, I think writing every other day works well for me. But maybe it’s just because I haven’t fully conditioned myself to the work-at-home setup yet.

    • It was like an article a day for six days, and it also included other activities, such as editing, brainstorming, interviewing, etc.. Doing all that definitely took its toll!

      Needless to say, I learned my lesson. 😉

      I totally get what you’re saying about conditioning yourself, and I can’t work from home either (unless I really, really had to.) That’s why I do most of my writing in coffee shops and libraries.

      Thanks for the comment, Maricel!

      • That’s great to know, Francesca. I thought it was just me failing to comprehend what other successful home-based freelancers are saying. I’ll be on the lookout for more signs, even the subtle ones, so I can begin to understand which setup really works for me. Thanks again for the tip re working in other places other than at home!

      • apageor2

        I’m working for a company now and what I am pushing out is three articles, sometimes four a day. Because of my status I work from home as I cannot just get up and leave the house when I want so it is easier for me to freelance out of the house and it works out quite well.

        Sure it is difficult at times but I have discovered it’s also wonderful because I plan out how the day works when it comes to taking the breaks and the project plan for the day. Of course there will be specific projects that will come in from time to time which is okay as well and I put them as priority.

        I did want to make a note just to state that because of my situation, I have the ability to work for a company directly from home for their clients and it works out quite well.Something else I learned working as a freelancer is I can accomplish a more on my own because I have no one looking over me than there would be in an office environment.
        Regards,
        Sue