Design Yourself Encore: The Importance of Taking Breaks

As we enter into the end of year sprint, Sharon wanted to bring back one of her very first podcast episodes. In this Encore Episode, Sharon talks about why stepping away from your computer and taking a break is one of the best things we can do for ourselves – and our work too. The end of year often seduces us into a flat-out sprint. It’s the last month to get your annual goals accomplished. It’s a rush of finishing out current objectives and planning for new ones. And on top of that it’s parties and sales and celebrations and just so many damn commitments. But it doesn’t have to be. Let this week’s episode be a reminder to you of the importance of stepping back and taking breaks – with several jumping off points for how you can make this practice your own.


This picture pretty much sums up my trip to the Adirondacks this summer. Open, expansive, peaceful.


  • Where do you get your best ideas? The shower? Running? I bet you won’t say: Sitting at my desk. Those breakthrough moments are unlikely to show up while you are pounding away for your umpteenth hour at the computer either. Point is: We need breaks.
Remember the false peak I discussed in this episode? Here she is in all her glory. Not a bad sneak preview of what was to come!


  • Here are just a few of the benefits of taking breaks: Allows us to recharge; Creativity flourishes away from our desks; We get new perspectives on old problems; Clarity of focus when we return to our work.
Our view of Lake Champlain on the "real" Point Road. So magical.
Our view of Lake Champlain on the “real” Point Road. So magical.
Baby on hip, crisp summer day, dogs snoozing, happy hour started...this is the stuff I dream about on vacation.
Baby on hip, crisp summer day, dogs snoozing, happy hour started…this is the stuff I dream about on vacation.


  • I find that anytime you are looking to make more space for something new – whether a behavior, habit, or hobby – it’s helpful to be able to understand that thing. Distinctions are a great way to do that and it is in that spirit that I discuss in this episode three types of breaks.

          1) Short, Every Day Breaks

          2) Vacations/Minibreaks

          3) Long Breaks, e.g. sabbaticals

  • Of course it’s one thing to start to see what different options are out there for taking breaks and quite another to actually start taking them. For this reason, the episode concludes with some practical tips for taking breaks. 

1) Integrate short breaks into your everyday routines

When we dream about taking a break, it usually doesn’t include something like taking a deep breath, standing up from your desk and stretching, or taking a walk around the block. But really these short breaks are the kind of daily practice that can bring peace and a sustainable pace to our lives. Sure it’s not as dreamy as jetting off to the shore of Nice, but I promise the impact will be felt every single day. Plus learning how to appreciate the sunshine on your lunch break is very good practice for being able to shift into the vacation mindset when you do head off for longer adventures. 

2) Take vacations on a regular basis

Did you know that in 2016 55% of Americans left vacation time on the table? Don’t be that person. (You can learn more about this issue over at Project Time Off. Psst – it’s not just bad for those of us missing out on vacation; it’s also bad for the businesses who employ them.)

Listen to the Note To Self interview with NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley on tech etiquette. It reminded me again of the cultural differences at play when it comes vacation. Eleanor is based in Paris and I was shocked to hear that she never gets out of office messages from her colleagues in France. There is a deeper assumption that work can continue when they are gone. She laughed about how stateside we can write these out of office messages when we step away for even a mere afternoon. Fascinating. And so darn true.

3) Take a longer pause

Sometimes longer pauses are delivered to us when we didn’t ask for them. Think jury duty, being sick, or caring for someone in need. Other times we can carve out special pauses like a sabbatical or year of traveling around the world. I personally loved my month-long break spent on the Camino de Santiago when I was nearing my third-trimester of pregnancy with my first. (A little insane in retrospect, but a lot amazing too.)

Look at the beautiful Grandma I got when I married my hubby. I think she is the human embodiment of the peace that this environment offers.