The Dangerous Break Mistakes You’re Probably Making

(Note from Cam: I’m rusty with these videos, so I’d recommend reading the blog post instead today. Regardless, enjoy!)

I apologize for the link bait headline. It was the first thing that popped in my head and it sounded catchy so I decided to keep it. With that being said, I’ve recently gone on a sabbatical, at least by my standards.

Aside from a short trip to Dallas in April, I’ve been grinding essentially nonstop since school started in September. With school letting out for summer vacation last week I decided it’d be a good time to revitalize myself.

Five days of relaxation in the summer sun as well as returning to my video game roots, and I’m feeling restless and ready to get back to work. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Let Go Completely

You need to let go of work completely. For the duration of your break your standard routine no longer exists. You may love work as much as I do, but you know what’s worse than taking a break?

Taking a pseudo break where you’re constantly thinking about work, and then getting back to work and realizing you’re still burnt out. Don’t resist having to take a break. Full acceptance of the revitalization process is what will allow you to maintain long-term motivation and passion for your craft (as well as spend the most time doing it).

Sometimes Being Unproductive Is The Most Productive

In the past during my breaks I’ve tried cramming Spanish flashcards, or hours of self-improvement study each day. As a result, my burn out was often no better after I’d concluded my break.

The lesson? Like the last point said, let go completely. We’re focused on long term gains, not who can accomplish the most over their “break week.” For some people a night playing Call Of Duty is what they need to feel refreshed.

If that’s truly what you’re passionate about great (though I would be cautious with television, video games, web surfing, etc, as many people resort to them not because they’re passionate about them, but because they require little energy exertion).

If you enjoy soccer find a game to play in. If a night out partying is what you need roll with it. Whatever you decide, however, don’t choose a recovery activity simply because it has productive potential and you feel it’s something you feel you should do. Pick something based on a desire to be engrossed in the process of it.

Set A Hard Deadline For Your Return

Your brain is addicted to the default state you experience. Think of your mood as a habit. It’s difficult to change. There’s a reason your coworker never stops complaining. He’s conditioned himself to complain and project negative energy into the world.

You may catch brief glimpses of positivity from him, but he’s generally negative because if he don’t exert concentrated energy on adjusting his mood he reverts back to his default state. You’re the same way.

You can be a type “A” personality, the workaholic that’s first to the office and last to leave, but when you take a break you may find your default state change. Normally I enjoy writing these blog posts, reading about self-improvement, juggling, and going out to practice my social skills.

This week, however, you’d have never guessed. I missed several practice sessions for juggling, stayed up late most nights playing Bomberman and Super Smash Bros, skipped my meditation sessions, and dreaded returning to my daily writing practice.

I probably let myself go a little bit too much in this period of recovery, but what’s scarier is it could have been a lot worse. Initially I was completely uncomfortable with being unproductive, but the last couple days it began to feel normal and justified to me.

I began to make rationalizations in my head that I was working too hard and I just needed to learn to relax. What’s wrong with Mario and Pokemon? Why was I torturing myself with the writing process each day? I’ve already got over 200 posts, what more could I possibly have to say?

Luckily I told myself the maximum amount of time I could veg out was a week. I did just that, and today I’m back on the grind. Would I have been back without a set deadline? Almost certainly, but who knows how long it would have taken? Don’t take a risk. Give yourself a hard deadline for your return.

Realize It’s Probably Gonna Suck

I’ve had times where I’ve taken breaks from juggling and the day I returned I had renewed passion and was better than ever. Those days are the exception. Usually after several days off I suck and its difficult not to be frustrated.

Writing is even worse. When I’m writing daily I rarely have trouble stringing words together. The day I return, however, it’s not pretty. Almost 800 words in and I’m beginning to rediscover my flow, but check out the beginning of this post. It was like I was a newbie blogger all over again.

This is probably the most difficult thing to come to terms with after you take a break. You’re going to struggle getting back into the state of mind where you produce your greatest work. I only took five days off and it’s taken me over 1.5 hours to hit my stride.

If you’ve taken a month off it might take you several days to get back into your groove. I know it sucks, but what other choice do you have? You can quit, or accept that it’s going to take some effort to get back to your previous production level.

The most important thing to realize, however, is that you can do it. Don’t psyche yourself out. If you were beasting it before it’s easy to rationalize that the person crushing life was some superhuman and not you.

Understand though, that the only thing that superhuman had that you don’t is momentum. The most difficult thing is getting the ball rolling. If you do that and consistently show up, you’ll be back on top of your game before you know it.

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(Picture from Dallas in April 2014)

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