Taking a Break

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Thom needs a rest. 

I need to stop responding to pings and dings and bells and whatnots telling me I have a new message, email, or Web notification. I need to stop reading dozens of Web sites and hundreds of forum posts daily. I need to stop responding to phone calls. The daily business life needs to stop for a bit.

For the last 30+ years I’ve been taking a three or four week respite from the modern world in order to recharge. I heartily recommend such a tactic to anyone that can do so: the brain clears, stress reduces, and you'll return with a spring to your step.

A one-week break won’t do that. Basically, it takes two or three days before you stop worrying about incoming messages that aren’t answered and if you forgot anything important. At the other end you start worrying about how you’re going to “catch up” two or three days before you get back. The day in between is kind of restful, though ;~). 

A two-week break is better. If you’re doing it right—and frankly, most of you aren’t—the week in the middle is one where you’ll have time to pursue things you don’t usually do at a pace that’s solely up to you. The reason why I say most of you don’t do this right is that you’re still looking at email, DMs, and checking the stock market on the Web.

Think of a break like a battery charge: one week barely keeps the system going; you’ll still run out of charge rapidly. Two weeks gives you a little extra charge you’re not yet going to use, but doesn’t fully fill up the batteries. You’ll still run out of charge soon, just not immediately. 

No, it takes at least three weeks—and I prefer four—to top that battery off and get the full benefit from your work timeout. And you really have to turn off the rest of the world (no messaging, email, Twitter feed, etc.) to experience that: the battery charges faster if you aren’t draining it at the same time ;~). 

In the next month I’ll be spending some time with friends, doing some photography, going on a trip, but I won’t be using Outlook, Firefox, Twitter, Messages, et.al. I try to go as close to cold turkey on those constant interruptions as I can. 

Thus, from March 24th through April 24th, if you send me a message, email, tweet I won’t answer it. If you post something on the Web or in a fora I won’t see it until I get back.

This doesn’t mean I give up all tech. No, I’ve got my cameras and my laptop. I’ll be taking photos, looking deeper into my photo archives, and maybe try some new processing techniques I’ve been meaning to check out. That’s because I find that rewarding. But if I don’t discover anything interesting or useful along the ways, no worries, it’ll still be fun (for me). I have no specific goals or needs I have to fill. It’s just tech play for me. 

I even tend to write during my month-long breaks. That’s because without interruptions I can actually think about what it is I’m writing, ponder it without any pressing need, and either finish it or push it to the back burner until my subconscious solves a problem I encountered. I’m pretty sure you haven’t noticed, but many of the articles you see posted by me come out of my “time off.” At present, I have over 100 such articles that are just sitting around waiting for me to fill in some blanks or otherwise finish them. 

In essence, I give up the “daily work routines” for a more considered, relaxed, thinking cap time. No deadlines. No need to produce something. Just contemplation and a bit of experimentation. That’s one reason why I do these breaks from the usual daily routines as month-long sojourns. You won’t believe how relaxed and re-energized you are when you’ve truly taken a month off from your job to just let the brain work at its own speed. 

See ‘ya on the other side...

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