How to Take a Break

God made us to work, but He also made us to rest. That first part I’m pretty good at, the second is a bit more challenging for me. What about you? How are you at taking a break?

Do we even need breaks, really?

YES. We do. We definitely do.

Breaks from work help us maintain our health, sanity, and relationships, and they make us better at our jobs. What’s more, God ordained rest. One of the first things we learn about God himself in the Bible is that He worked, and then rested (Genesis 2:1-3). God made our bodies to require sleep, and our souls to require quiet reflection.

I’m talking real time off here ladies. There’s no such thing as a “working vacation;” that’s just work, in a different location.

If you have limited time off like me, you really need to make it count. But it’s not always as simple as marking your calendar and setting your “out of office” automated email reply (do those things though, they help). You can’t control everything, and there’s always a chance that some true emergency could crop up while you’re on vacation that necessitates your attention. That said, not every work problem is an emergency, not even the urgent ones. Not every work problem needs your attention. You need to be able to distinguish between the two, and so do the people on your team.  

You can set yourself up for success if you choose your time wisely, lay the proper groundwork, communicate your intentions clearly, and set personal boundaries on your use of “free” time.

This summer I managed to take a real, life-breathing break from work to be with my family in Oregon. Here’s how I managed it:

1. Timing- I picked a time when I knew that I had no Board meetings or speaking engagements and when there were no new major projects launching at Cassidy Turley or 4word. I blocked the time out well in advance and did my best to protect it as the rest of my calendar filled up.

2. Lay the groundwork- About two weeks before I took off, I emailed the entire 4word team, letting everyone know that the dates that I would be taking off, and providing a deadline (a few days before I left) for the team to send me anything that needed my attention or approval before I left.

3. Communicate. I talked to my assistant to let her know that I would be unavailable but to call me if there was an emergency. She and I have worked together for a while now, long enough that I trust her judgment when it comes to what is an emergency and what isn’t. I let my teams know how often I would be checking email (about once a day, sometimes not at all). This is a good step to take because it helps you make it clear to people just how “disconnected” from work you plan to be. If you anticipate issues coming up that might need an arbiter, make sure there’s a clear “chain of command” in place. This is true even if you’re not managing a team. If you’re working closely with someone on a particular project, get their permission to let people know that they will be available to answer questions while you’re away. This will help prevent a run-of-the-mill problem from turning into a “work emergency” that has your phone ringing in the middle of a family photo opp.  

4. Set and abide by healthy boundaries. All of this preparation will be totally worthless unless you personally commit to step away from work. Sometimes this one is a real challenge for me. So this summer I set specific boundaries for myself: I only turned on my computer at night or very early mornings before my run, even though I have a smart card that enables me to connect pretty-much anywhere. I only make calls or look at emails on my Blackberry when my family was busy with something else. Even when we’re all in the car together we’re usually talking or playing games if everyone is awake. I resolved to spend the majority of any “down” time thinking and praying. A quiet car ride when everyone is sleeping is perfect for this.   

Be intentional about making your next break from work a real break. You’ll be happier and healthier for it, and your family (and likely your coworkers) will thank you.


When was the last time you took a (real) break from work?