With summertime at a close, schools back in session and our seasonal workloads ramping up quickly, this seems like the perfect time to talk about taking a break and getting away from it all.
Several years ago, as I was preparing to take a ten day trip with my family, my boss said, “If I see you on email while you’re on vacation, I’ll fire you.” I of course laughed and said, “No problem,” fully aware that if our donors, Board members or my colleagues needed to connect with me I –would be available for them. Fortunately for me, my boss saw through my empty promise and said something that has resonated for me ever since, “I mean it. Take a break. Nothing is more important right now than the time you are going to spend away from work.”
Now, one could argue that it might have made more sense to offer up this post back in May or early June when folks were preparing for summer vacations. I would counter that the precise time to think about how we take breaks and how we care for ourselves is right when the demands on our time are increasing. In the midst of extra-long days that inevitably make it harder to get to the gym or out for a walk with the dog, the onslaught of evening events that take us away from family and friends, the smart phone that offers immediate and constant access to emails, texts, etc., the challenge we all face is making time to recharge and to keep ourselves grounded.
The key is recognizing that, outside of scheduled vacations, daily and weekly downtime away from our work is essential to ensuring – not just that we can perform at our best – but that we are living a full life. As a point of reference, here are a couple of reminders from the good people at Merriam Webster:
- Time-out : a short period of time when you stop doing something so that you can rest or do something else
- Rejuvenate : to give new strength or energy to (something)
Countless studies have shown the importance of giving our minds a chance to power down. Never taking breaks reduces our ability to function at our highest cognitive and creative capacity. Whether it’s forcing ourselves to leave the desk over lunch, taking a brief mid-morning/afternoon walk, intentionally allowing our mind to wander in daydream, or regularly working out between the office and home — we reap significant benefits when we give ourselves permission to take a break from work. Taking a break, even for 15 to 20 minutes, is a proven way to sustain concentration and energy levels throughout the day. Your focus, your ability to function at a high level, even your adaptability all significantly increase when you provide your mind and your body the fuel it needs to recharge.
There is also great value in being truly present with the people we are face-to-face with. Even when we try to hide it or split our focus, our family and friends can all tell when we are distracted by work and, unfortunately, this results in missing out on the opportunity to be enriched by our personal encounters. While it may feel like we have more work than we can ever get done and that our to-do list is more like an all-you-can eat salad bowl than something we can actually conquer, the simple truth is – there’s always going to be more work than time and, with regularity, you have to give yourself permission to take a break from the grind.
So, put yourself in a time-out. Get away from your desk, put down the phone, be present, engage with those around you. “I mean it. Take a break. Nothing is more important right now than the time you are going to spend away from work.”
David Gee is a non-profit professional with a particular expertise in capital campaigns, major gifts and donor stewardship. David joined the Laurus Strategies team as a Senior Consultant after serving as The Chicago Bar Foundation’s Director of Development for over seven years. Prior to that, he spent 18 years working as a professional actor in Chicago. Among his volunteer activities, David currently serves on the Donors Forum’s Resource Development Committee and the Cara Program’s Major Gift Committee.
Headquartered in Chicago, Laurus Strategies has a passion for helping nonprofits advance their mission. Laurus Strategies’ Non Profit and Public Affairs Consulting Group provides a wide range of fundraising, strategic planning, training and leadership services with a proven track record of success. Together, the team has over 80 years of experience and has helped clients raise over $650,000,000.