It’s been three days since I turned in the last 3 files for my book over to the editor. For the first time in a few months, I wake up to the day without the underlying commitment to write a few pages or do something related to writing the book. I feel a little weird and notice an uncomfortable pressure to get onto the next project. It took me a good seven months to write the book, and over the last few weekends I took very little time off. (Oh, and there was the 3-day power outage 10 days before my first deadline.) So, what is this thing that makes it hard to take even one day - or three - to “do nothing?"
Why is it hard to pause after endings?
We are lousy celebrators. Driven to be productive during all working hours, most people find it hard to not work, even for a day. Here’s what I think has happened: we’ve been conditioned by the corporate paradigm to sit down at our desks (of wherever we work) for 6-9 hours, no matter what. The idea that it would be okay to do anything else on a workday is deemed preposterous.
I am reminded of a time at my last job when our work team finished a big presentation for a new client around 1:00 pm on whatever day it was. (We’d worked on the presentation for the previous 2 or 3 days and put in some overtime for this one, too.) Once we were done I was mentally and physically ready to pack it up and call it a day. But I was salaried, with no management authority, so I couldn’t leave without a good reason and without losing pay. Even more significant, though, was the business culture, itself (which, by the way, was actually good about celebrating compared to other companies I've worked in). I’m sure we took our lunch breaks, but we all came back to put in the rest of our hours. So, I stayed but I did not get much done.
What are the benefits of taking a break after a big project ends?
If you don’t ever take a break and don’t find a way to celebrate your accomplishments, the build-up of such neglect will result in an increasing level of exhaustion and dissatisfaction. On the other hand, a nice little break and a special celebration will:
- Increase your sense of satisfaction about your work
- Recharge your batteries
- Improve your effectiveness when you do get back to work
Are you chuckling yet, wondering why I'm writing this blog at the same time I’m talking about taking a break? Not to worry. I sent the bulk of the book files into the publisher on July 10th and flew to San Francisco for a week-long vacation the next day. These last 3 files were minor in comparison, but now I’m really done! I appear to need another break. I think tomorrow I'll take off early and see a movie. Yeah, that sounds good.