by Carrie Brummer | Featured Contributor
When you are working for yourself and are caught up in an engaging project, it is really easy to lose yourself in the flow of your ideas, enthusiasm and motivation. In the zone, feeling your flow, you keep going without realizing you’ve skipped lunch. Then, all of a sudden, its 6 pm and your family is home from their days. You realize with a start you have no food for anyone to make dinner.
You are so tired from your effort, you can’t possibly bring yourself to the store nor conjure another idea out of your head (in this case: what’s for dinner). So, you resort to your go-to delivery place (mine is called Shang Thai over here in Muscat) and not only do they know your voice, they know your order.
Flow states can be difficult to come by, so its understandable on those rare days you’d take advantage of it. What about on the days you keep working because you want to get something done, or because you are excited about a new project? This may be a symptom of something more insidious, something entrepreneurs don’t fully acknowledge:
Do You ALWAYS feel like you should be working?
I do. I quit my job to move for my husband’s work. When I got to Muscat, it was easy to jump into my business dream, which had been percolating for 4 years. I love it. Not only do I get to make art every day, I get to encourage others to do the same thing! I get to shout from rooftops about why it is important to be creative and then offer people tools to do the same.
When you truly love what you do, it is fuel for your fire. Yet, there are times you feel guilty. You feel guilty having this opportunity to build your dream come true. You feel guilty that your family is so supportive and giving for you to have this time. What about them?
Then you place a sense of responsibility upon yourself: you must show everyone you love, who is supporting you with your “crazy” idea (how will you make money from that again?) that their trust and belief in you is worthwhile. So, you hunker down and work long and hard. Because you want your dream realized. Because you owe it to your family and friends…
Whoa. No pressure. Hello there, recipe for burnout.
That’s how I started my business and almost burned out in the first 3 months. After a holiday break I decided no more of this non-stop work. I begin each day making art, because it makes me happy: 15 minutes to an hour of art every day. Then, exercise, and finally, my business. Oh, and don’t forget a lunch break.
A funny thing has happened: I’m one thousand times more productive now when I focus on my tasks for Artist Think than I was when I was always working.
An article in Fast Company explains that NOT taking a break actually reduces your creative ability. And while they encourage you to walk, nap, sit out in nature, they forget an obvious use of your lunch break: make art!
Why not bring a little sketchbook with you to the park while you eat? Art can actually be an act of meditation. You turn the verbal part of your brain “off” while you create, which helps quiet and recharge your mind. As a result, art can be a great release for people accustomed to being on the go. And, for all you A-Types, art offers a feeling of accomplishment.
All you need to do is take 15 minutes from your work every few hours. The Mayo Clinic reports that remaining seated in front of your computer and/or in front of your TV for 4 or more hours a day can actually be correlated with an increased 50% death rate (from any cause)!
There is NO reason we should be constantly working. In fact, we could literally be killing ourselves!
Of course, one reason all of these articles can be discussed and nothing changes returns to our adult notions of responsibility: “I should be working.” “Fun is for kids.” “Breaks are for lazy people.” So, despite research and advice that tells us what we know: taking breaks is helpful for our jobs and health, we continue to ignore it. We continue to feel guilty, or obliged.
There is no magic potion to change our mindset, only a choice. You must choose to take care of yourself first. If you don’t, who will?
Of course, if your office isn’t in your own home it may be hard to explain why you now have a tuba residing in the corner space where you once had a coffee table. But, art, or reading, or meditation can be a wonderful, quiet break from the intensity of your entrepreneurial focus.
Celebrate your choice to take breaks. Model it for your employees. Your business will reap great benefit from your acute and creative mind. But more importantly, so will you.
My name is Carrie Brummer. I am an artist, educator and entrepreneur all wrapped into someone who loves traveling, eats way too much sugar in the form of chocolate chip cookies and currently lives in the country of Muscat, Oman. My biggest passion at the moment is to encourage creative play in the lives of as many people as I possibly can: engaging with our creative interests makes us happier, healthier, more fulfilled human beings. Seriously, what’s not to like? That’s why my company Artist Think is now alive and kicking: it’s my vehicle to art-educate and art-empower.