Why Breaks Are Essential for Successful Creatives (Hint: Book a Vacation Now)
I like the sound of the word “hustle.” It brings to mind designers who are passionate about their art, committed to making a business succeed, and happily fully immersed in their work.
One of my most popular courses for designers, The Hustle Plan, celebrates that sense of energy and focus.
However, there’s another meaning that’s becoming attached to the term “hustle” that I find unsettling.
These days, the word “hustle” in some circles has come to mean “nonstop work.” In today’s hustle culture, detailed in this New York Times article, lack of sleep or total hours logged have become bragging rights and social media hashtags.
The all-hustle-all-day mentality keeps us from operating at peak productivity. To do that, we need quality breaks.
I also believe that skipping breaks may take a disproportionate toll on those who make a living being creative. That’s because creatives, perhaps more than any other group, need to consistently leverage the power of fresh eyes and fresh perspectives to get to the very top of their games.
The Benefits of Rest
In our work-centered culture, breaks and vacations can feel like guilty pleasures. In reality, they should be considered useful tools that can help you reach your goals and enrich your life.
Real rest periods pay off in the following valuable ways.
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We all know how hard it is to continue to stay at our best when we’re tired. We can get tired the old fashioned way — from literally letting work interrupt our sleep — or we can simply get tired of doing the same type of work over and over again until we weren’t thinking clearly about it anymore.
This Harvard Business Review article cites studies that “there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increased incidence of health and safety problems.” That’s why many industries, such as healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing, make employee breaks mandatory.
As a designer, your lack of breaks might not be putting you at physical risk of injury. But mistakes will still take a toll on your business.
Fresh New Insights
This Inc. article has a great summary of why it’s so important to get out of “focus mode” regularly. It turns out that our brains actually need to go into what experts call “diffuse mode” (which happens when we’re relaxed) to process new and complex problems.
This mode activates different parts of our brains that can be helpful in cycling through complex information.
This is probably why helpful insights and “aha moments” can come unexpectedly as we’re going for a run or taking a shower. It’s also may be why designers can see a project from a completely new angle after they’ve stepped away from it for a while.
I suggest that designers build extra time into their creative process for this very reason: Rest periods always bring a stronger perspective and a bigger “Wow” factor. (Read more here: 3 Steps for a Powerful Design Concept Presentation)
Although lower productivity and a higher rate of errors might be the initial side effects of working too much, there are even higher stakes if you fail to take breaks over a longer period of time.
High stress and little sleep generally lead to poor health in a variety of forms, such as high blood pressure, headaches, or even panic attacks. Stress can also lead to poor dietary and exercise habits, which can further exacerbate health issues.
Anytime you get to the point where work is affecting your health, you can be sure it will, in turn, continue to affect the quality of your work negatively. It’s a much better strategy to make sure you’re prioritizing your health, and the business benefits will follow naturally.
The Basics of Effective Recharging
I hope by now you agree that to stay at the top of your game creatively, you have to get serious about taking breaks. But not all breaks are created equal.
A break where you step away from the computer but continue to fret about what you were working on is not restorative. And, as anyone who has experienced a sinking feeling after finishing a pint of ice cream and binging TV, you don’t necessarily come out of the other side of all “breaks” feeling better about things.
Real breaks mean truly stepping away from what you were working on or what you’re blocked on and disconnecting completely for a while (which may require leaving your phone behind or using an app to block distracting sites and notifications).
The Harvard Business Review piece suggests planning for both “internal” and “external” breaks. Internal breaks are shorter breaks that happen during the workday, such as taking your dog for an afternoon walk, or even switching to an easier work task for a while instead of the one that requires more intense focus.
External breaks refer to the breaks that happen outside of work hours, such as on the weekends and on vacations. I think that these can provide even more insights for creative work when travel is involved. Getting a complete change of scenery or even experiencing another culture will continue to yield plenty of inspiration and insights in your work upon your return.
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Holding Yourself Accountable to Rest
Any entrepreneur or small business owner knows well that taking a vacation is not as easy as it may have been at a full-time salaried job.
Employees at bigger companies may have to do little more than just notify HR of their vacation dates. But as a self-employed interior designer, taking longer breaks now requires extra planning and foresight, especially if you don’t have any employees to cover for you. (Related post: Is it Time to Hire an Employee for Your Interior Design Business?) If you’re still trading time for dollars you’re not guaranteed a steady paycheck for the time you take off. (Related post: Free Yourself From Hourly Billing)
This is what makes many designers hesitate to take vacations at all, always putting off the task until the next slow period. Reality check: The perfect time will probably never present itself. That’s why you have to consciously prioritize it.
So, I would encourage you to embrace the power that comes with being your own boss. [bctt tweet=”Book a vacation now — today — and figure out the logistics as the date approaches.”]
If you’re like many interior designers, a big part of what inspired you to go into business for yourself was the ability to control your schedule. As your own boss, you have additional flexibility when it comes to booking trips when flights and stays are the least expensive and the least disruptive to your schedule. It would be a shame to miss out on those kinds of perks simply because you don’t make the time to do it.
Finally, without a boss or colleagues to point out when we might need a break (or to remind us that our vacation days don’t roll over), we can really benefit from finding other trusted partners to do it. (Related post: Who is Holding You Accountable?)
If you’re looking for someone like that in your life, consider joining other talented, ambitious designers in our Interior Design Mastermind Group. We meet monthly, share stories and tactics, build each other up, and inspire each other to do better — including knowing when it’s time to take a quality vacation.
If you have any questions or want to learn more, feel free to use this form to contact me directly.