How to Take A Break

I’ve been working out every other day since January 1, a rare resolution that has survived the cold of January 2. In my health club I noticed the time that the veterans allotted between sets of exercises. I found that I was able to perform more sets myself when I allowed ample time in between.

Then I was shocked that I was so shocked. After all, I’m a strong advocate of playing hard and resting hard, as well as working hard. In fact, the three are quite synergistic.

Your brain (mental capacity) needs rest and rehab no less than your body. Too much physical exercise breaks down essential body parts, strains muscles, and can cause exhaustion. The same applies to mental exercise.

Since people love prescriptions, here’s mine: Work hard for four hours a day, play hard for four hours a day, and rest well for eight hours a day. Now, what does that mean?

  1. Work hard: Apply yourself without interruption to implementing client work, writing articles, preparing speeches, marketing, research, and so forth.
  2. Play hard: Get physical with exercise or recreation (active sports). Work in the garden. Fix something around the house. (If there’s nothing to fix, come over to my place.)
  3. Rest well: Immerse yourself in a hobby that’s non-physical (reading, TV, movies, stamp collecting, model-making). Sleep.

There’s no zealot like the converted, and I’m not one of those new-found exercisers who now believes that everyone has to get into the act. Rather, I’ve simply articulated what I’ve really been doing for years. Some days will throw you off, because you’re with a client for eight hours (talk about hard work), or you’ve chosen to play golf all day. That’s okay. I’m talking on average, here, and not precision-like clockwork.

You’ll find that your work will improve tremendously. Your acuity will develop, and you’ll begin to hear and see things you missed before. Your judgment will be more unerring and your decisions crisper. You’ll also have more energy to invest in recovering from inevitable setbacks and disappointments.

There’s no badge of honor to be worn in being a workaholic or a prototypical “Type A” personality. When you are driven to that extent, the frustrations and anger that can’t be easily borne are too often thrust upon others, and interpersonal friction takes the place of personal exercise and health.

One of the people in my mentoring program was overweight and overworked, supporting more of a staff than he should have and doing more of the work than he needed to. I implored him to back off, and he told me that the opportunity was just around the corner, as soon as a few more things were in place. When he left the program, he was still looking for that respite.

I learned a couple of months ago that he suddenly died, a young man. This one’s for you Phil, and I hope you’re in a place where rest comes much more easily.