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Taking Breaks: When Stopping Is Even More Important Than Starting

Arthur Worsley
by Arthur Worsley
M.A. Psychology, Oxford. McKinsey Alum. Founder & Editor at TAoL.

If you had to do as many sit-ups as possible in 10 minutes, which approach would you take?

Would you:

  1. Hit the ground and spam repetitions, non-stop, until you collapsed? or
  2. Do a comfortable number of sit-ups, take a 30-second break, do some more and repeat till the countdown ran out?

It’s an easy choice, right?

Taking regular breaks ALWAYS beats a mad dash for the finish. It’s more comfortable, more sustainable and you’re less likely to get hurt in the process.

Slow and steady wins the race.

The more haste, the worse speed.

The tortoise always beats the hare.

It’s so obvious…

And yet YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE how many top performers fail to extend this to the way that they study or work.

They pile things on their to-do lists like a glutton at a bottomless barbecue. And the first thing they eliminate when it’s time to make difficult choices is recovery.

They literally decide that the quickest way to empty their plates is to save time by not breathing.

And you know what happens?

They burn out.

They need caffeine to kick-start their mornings. They procrastinate in the early afternoon. They’re broken when they get home each evening. They spend their weekends exhausted and drained.

And then they come to me and tell me their lives are a mess.

And you know what else?

I get it.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I’ve been through that frustrating boom and bust cycle more times than I can count as an Oxford grad, a McKinsey consultant and a struggling entrepreneur.

And it took me A LONG time to realise two things:

  1. That excellence is built on showing up every single day, year after year after year, not mad dashes or suicidal sprints; and
  2. That discipline is as much about knowing how (and when) to STOP as it is about being able to begin.

It took me a long time to learn the value of:

  • Getting at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep every night;
  • Taking a 15-minute break every 90 – 120 minutes;
  • Enjoying 1 full recovery day at least once per week; and
  • Making time for 4 consecutive rest days at least once every 4 – 5 weeks.

And it took me even longer to realise that recovery is the LAST thing I should take out of my schedule, not the first.

It’s not easy.

It still feels hard to prioritise what’s important over what’s urgent. And in a world where 24 hours never feels like enough, it’s hard to do less every day.

But it’s worth it.

Partly because short breaks, sleep and holidays are proven to prevent sickness, kill stress, encourage big-picture thinking, reduce procrastination, restore motivation and even help you learn faster.

But mostly because they make life a happier, healthier place.

In fact, it’s the main reason the first two weeks of TAoL‘s TRACKTION Masterclass are focussed on STOPPING and DOING LESS.

They’re focussed on giving you a break.

So, take it from someone whose tried every way possible to burn his proverbial candle at both ends…

Stop compromising on recovery.

Run the marathon at your own pace.

Let the fools keep their sprints.

And remember…

Life moves fast enough as it is. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you won’t just travel less far overall, you might miss it.

Arthur Worsley
I founded TAoL to discover and share the best wisdom on how to live long and prosper. Before that I studied Psychology, Philosophy & Physiology at Oxford and consulted at McKinsey. Still curious? Learn more or take my FREE productivity quiz.

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