“I need a break.”
In two years, I had traveled to over 50 cities. I had practically lived in hotels and airport waiting areas. I barely saw friends and family.
I knew it was time to step away from work. I ended up taking 2 weeks off and felt completely refreshed, re-energized, and newly motivated.
Over the last 31 years, I’ve always sprinted pretty hard at my projects and it’s helped me find success. For example, I spent 2 years writing 6 books, 21 articles, 18 motivational posts, and 30 editorial pitches before I finally got published in an online major publication. I’ve now been published on Forbes, Fortune, Business Insider, and The Huffington Post.
Along the way, I wish I had recognized the signs though. Looking back, it’s easy to see exactly when I should have taken a break. The signs were so clear.
Here are 8 signs that you need a break.
1. You’re watching hours and hours of cat videos at the office
Seriously. Maybe it’s cats. Maybe it’s reruns of Breaking Bad. Maybe it’s Justin Bieber videos. The point is, you are no longer focused on your work. What you do seem to care about though, is how to pass the time.
2. You make careless mistakes
When you stop caring, you tend to make careless mistakes. You accidentally drop a coin into the soup mixer at a restaurant (true story). Your emails suddenly contain embarrassing typos. You look like a bewildered deer when you’re asked for your opinion in a meeting. You call a coworker by name — except it’s the wrong name.
3. You’re emotionally overwhelmed
You’re upset, irritated, angry, frustrated, or sad over what would normally be a small issue. This happens to almost everyone. If you find yourself breaking down emotionally, that might be a good time to consider a break. Maybe it means walking outside for 30 minutes. Maybe it means buying a one-way ticket to Hawaii to lay on the beach and bask in the sun. Maybe it means driving to Napa for a wine trip. Take a deep breath, collect yourself, and consider taking a break.
4. You’re always exhausted
Feeling tired for a day? That’s normal. Feeling tired for an entire month? That’s definitely not normal. Remember to get enough sleep and to take care of yourself. While it’s great to be hyper productive for a short period of time, it’s usually not worth it in the long term. Pace yourself.
5. You dread waking up for work
The alarm goes off and the first thing you think is “I really don’t want to go to work.” You no longer feel inspired by the company mission. You feel like you can’t make an impact anymore. You feel like you’re going through the motions. It’s time for you to step away. Take a moment for yourself. When you remove yourself from the situation, you allow yourself to think more clearly and to get a fresh perspective on what the next step should be.
6. You’re having trouble falling asleep
You have too much on your mind — that next project, that big deadline, that promotion you’ve always wanted, that coworker who seems like they can’t stand you. If you’re starting to lose sleep over work, it’s time to take a break. If you don’t take the break, the lack of sleep will start to hurt your health and your passion, energy, and focus will start to fade.
7. You’re getting physically sick a lot
If you’re under a lot of stress, not sleeping well, and working crazy amounts of hours, your immune system is probably under a lot of duress and you’ll likely get sick quite often. Don’t let your physical health go sideways — take some time off and go on a break!
8. You’re dreaming of quitting with no plan in place
You’ve romanticized the idea of quitting in your head. You have no back-up plan or next steps in place. It’s a clear sign that you’re simply trying to get away. Instead of making a quick decision with huge implications, it may be best to take a short break to see if that’s what you truly want.
If you’re seeing these signs, take a moment, take a step back, and take a break — you’ll be better for it.
Featured photo credit: Dan Cooper via bit.ly