Should you double-down or unplug?

My first break longer than a week off work. Ever. Here’s what I learned.

Do you have a hard time answering this question…

Is it time to push harder or time for a break?

I’ve been wrestling with the question for a few months now. I’ve had some breakthroughs and tough pills to swallow. If you can relate, here are some takeaways I’ve learned so far.

1) Weekly Check-Ins Provide Big-Picture Perspective

I love my work and my team, which is a good thing! In the day-to-day excitement, it’s tough to calibrate my own expectations.

Recently I found my mind thinking, “Am I bringing enough fresh ideas to my clients?” “Do I need to be more authoritative, or is my leadership style stale?” “Am I role-modeling enough for my team? Or am I taking on too much myself?” “If I can push through today, I’ll get back on track.”

Weekly reflections help me assess my productivity – what’s working and what’s not – on the regular.

Flipping backward through weekly reflections in my Present & Productive Planner Journal, I noticed a few signs that it was time to step away from work and unplug…

🚀 Difficulty transitioning my daily routine from book-writing to book-launching mode

🤔 Constantly questioning my leadership

🚘 Uncertainty around my personal growth plans

⌛ Feeling trapped in a work schedule that I couldn’t just ‘tame’

🏃‍♀️ Lacking skills needed to make progress at my usual pace on my new goals

In short, I was stuck. Doubling down wasn’t getting me where I wanted to go. It was officially time for a break.

2) Change Your Surroundings to Change Your Thinking

Your surroundings directly impact the quality of your thoughts.

Often when change isn’t happening at the rate or pace we want, the instinct of high-performers is to double down and narrow our focus.

But research shows that’s exactly when it’s time to shift up your routine. Why?

Pausing your routine promotes new neural connections and leads to those faster breakthrough ideas that you need to get out of a rut. 

To spark fresh thinking and new ideas, I was lucky enough to experience very different surroundings for a week. 

My bestie put together an incredible trip trekking 100+ miles through the rugged Scottish Highlands. She did such an amazing job planning the trip – I couldn’t say no!

Walking for one week looked like…

📰 No social media or news

🎙 No books or podcasts in the background

💻 No computer or tv screens

📗 No Present & Productive Planner Journal!

In the span of a day, I switched from my business suit to rain-resistant hiking gear. The only screen I saw was my phone camera (and a few texts letting my mom know I was ok 😉 )

3) Tap into Beginner’s Mind

For one week I stepped outside of my regular routines – racing to meet client deadlines, sprinting in creative flow, training – and tapped into a different side of my identity.

My brain’s entertainment for the week was relegated to soaking up breathtaking scenes (and a lot of rain) plus conversations with my fellow hikers, awesome folks from diverse life paths.

On this hike, no one had any preconceived notions. No one cared what I did at work, what I had accomplished on my resume. This change in my surroundings was just as powerful.

I was surprised at how refreshing it was to spend a week in beginner’s mind.

Beginner’s mind can also look like…

🌳 Take a walk and really engage all five senses. This lets you experience your surroundings in a new way!

📚 Enjoy content outside your field, like part of a documentary or an interesting book chapter, for 10-15 minutes. The less relevant to your work, the better 😛

🖼 Be a tourist in your own town! Explore a neighborhood or art gallery through the eyes of a newbie

🦻 Ask friends or colleagues what projects they are working on in their life. Listen deeply and you might be surprised at their insights

🃏 Play! Get silly and try a new game or hobby

Once you recognize the value of beginner’s mind, you’ll start seeing more opportunities to integrate it into your life and turbocharger creativity in the places you’re feeling stuck.

Of course, not everyone has amazing besties who organize trips for them! Her leadership really helped me do something as a beginner! But I hope this post inspires you to think outside the box about ways you can get unstuck and work smarter, not harder, with strategic pauses ⏸. 

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