In a recent article about taking restful breaks in 99U, written by Christian Jarrett, he talks about the need for “truly restful breaks” when working hard on a project–which are different that just taking a break. He uses a modern analogy when he writes “Just as you need to refuel your car and recharge the batteries in your cell phone, it’s important to give yourself the chance to recoup your energy levels throughout the workday. In fact, the more demanding your day, and the less time you feel like you have to take any breaks, the more crucial it is that you make sure you do take regular breaks to prevent yourself from becoming exhausted.”
Jarrett notes that “[N]ot just any kind of break will do. Psychologists and business scholars have recently started studying the most effective ways to relax during a workday – they call them ‘micro breaks’ – and their latest findings point to some simple rules of thumb to sustain and optimize your energy levels” which the article breaks down into a “three-step process.”
One is to “get out of the office.” For me, the office is my home, so I interpret that to mean to get out of the quilting room upstairs and away from those kinds of tasks. So getting together with my long-time quilt group works for me, as well as entertaining my grandsons (above) when the come for a long Sunday afternoon.
The article relates that “Countless studies have shown how a green environment gives us a mental recharge, and what’s really encouraging is that recent work has shown that this doesn’t have to be a tropical rainforest. A modest urban park is all it takes.”
Taking short breaks early and often is one of the ideas. He quotes a study from Baylor University, highlighting this interesting detail: “[I]f you take frequent breaks, then they don’t need to be as long to be beneficial – a couple of minutes might be enough. On the other hand, if you deprive yourself of many breaks, then when you do take one, it’s going to be need to be longer to have any beneficial effect.”
I noticed all of this when I was working on my Shine quilt. I started with the backgrounds: close quilting in the “white” areas with white thread, but then what? Coming back to the quilt after a long break from my shoulder injury, I started with outlining the circle blocks. Another break helped me see that more detail work was needed on each circle, with sometimes as many as four thread changes for different colors.
The next conundrum was how to quilt the small “sashing” in between each block. I drew out many ideas, but ended up choosing what you see here: some modified geometrics. Since I try to take frequent breaks to rest my arms/shoulders while I’m doing this project, I feel like I’ve avoided some of the burnout that can occur when we see the looming deadline and quilt our brains out late into the night.
If this is your Modus Operandi, or the way you work, you might want to be aware of Jarrett’s final thoughts about taking breaks: “[Y]ou might have the view that you’ll push yourself relentlessly during the day, squeezing every minute for what it’s worth, and then completely flake out after dark. This strategy of extremes might work for a robot, but not a human. Psychology research from the University of Konstanz in German and Portland State University shows that over-exhaustion at the end of the day makes it even more difficult to recuperate after work hours. In other words allowing yourself proper breaks during the day will make your out-of-hours recovery more effective, ultimately boosting your productivity and creativity in the weeks and months ahead.”
I’m not talking to young mothers, who find that nighttime is the only time they have to work without little helpers (although that does explain why when the baby is sick and the toddler is a pest and you fall exhausted into bed at night, that the night’s sleep doesn’t seem to provide the needed rest). I’m talking to myself, I guess, pushing to finish off a task, always reluctant to let go of a day’s work, hoping to get “one more thing done.” I found Jarrett’s advice helpful as well, in allowing me to understand why sometimes I just have to push back from the machine — or the computer — and take a break.
I just need to make sure it’s the right kind.
The quilt shown is Shine: The Circles Quilt. Free EPP patterns can be found by clicking on the link in the header of my blog.