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When did you last take a break?  A real break that is, not ten minutes snatched in desperation when you had to get out of the house, right now, or you would throttle the kids.  A planned relaxing break that actually refreshes you, switches off your brain, and re-energises your creativity?  Do you even remember when the last time was?  Before you had kids maybe?  Or just before you started your business?

We all need to take a break away from our business, away from stress, away from our normal daily grind.  We all know this, we all hear it regularly, yet how many of us actually do this?  I know I’m guilty of this.  When I worked outside the home, I left work of an afternoon and that was it.  My weekends were mine and my family’s.  I might think about work now and then, but that was as far as it went.

Now that I work at home though…. it’s a very different story.  That line between work and home is blurred to the point of non-existence.  Kids eating breakfast – I can check emails.  Dinner on cooking – go write a blog post.  Hubby on the computer of an evening – that’s work time.  And I’m not even counting the hours working during the day.

Is this healthy?  Of course it’s not.  Taking a break is like exercising – we all know we should be doing it, but somehow we never seem to find the time to do it.  And like exercise, when the pressure is on it’s the first thing to be dropped from the schedule.

Last year I took a sabbatical from my business for nearly four months.  I had agonised over the decision for two months before that and my husband being deployed was the final push that made the decision for me.  It was one of the best business decisions I had ever made.  I used the time to rest and recharge, to look at what I was doing, what was working and what wasn’t.  To decide where I wanted to go and what I wanted my business to do and be.  I came back to it early this year with renewed energy and direction.  So far, it’s been a huge success.

I know that taking a four month sabbatical isn’t practical for everyone or all the time.  However smaller breaks, rest periods and weekends, are essential to manage our energy, creativity and momentum.  Our bodies and minds are designed to work hard and then rest.  If you’ve ever looked into biorhythms you can see the energy cycle with it’s clear highs and lows.  Mental energy has the same cycle of highs and lows, work and rest, as physical energy.

One of the main reasons I find that clients don’t take breaks is that they don’t schedule them.  You have to make a firm decision regarding time off and working hours and then stick to those hours.

Plan time out of the house and with people not connected with your business.  Take the kids or go alone.  Have a change of scenery.  Walk.  Drive.  Have coffee (no taking a work notebook either!)

If you’re tied to the house, walk away from where you work.  Close the door if you can.  Go and do something not connected with business at all.  Preferably not housework either – it’s not a rest break if you’re simply swapping one work for another.

Take at least one full day off every week, all weekend would be even better.  If this isn’t possible on a regular basis then you really need to be taking a good hard look at your business and seeing where you need to cut back and restructure your work.

Even God rested on the seventh day.  If he felt the need to rest then why do we mortals think we can keep going without a break?

What do you do for downtime and rest breaks?  How long has it been since you took time out for yourself?