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Career Tips

Give me a break: The art of hitting pause to recharge

by Brought to you by ACS Careers
June 1, 2019 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 97, Issue 22


Photo of someone taking a coffee break.
Credit: Shutterstock
Take a break; it'll make you more productive.

Are you constantly working? Perhaps you’re catching up on work phone calls while answering emails while also watching the latest episode of your favorite TV show.

Although this may feel efficient, juggling so many things may not be good for your productivity or even your health in the long run. Taking a break may help you be not only more efficient but also happier.

So how do you manage breaks effectively?

Start moving. Walking, exercising, reading, or anything that takes your mind off the problem at hand and makes you think differently can provide a mental break. Go outside, take a walk around the building, and don’t forget to notice the people and creatures around you.

Stop moving. Daniel Pink, author of the book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, has a recipe for the perfect nap: after finding a place where you won’t be disturbed, turn off notifications on all your electronic devices and set a timer for 25 minutes. Then, drink a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea, and close your eyes. When you wake up, the caffeine will begin taking effect, and you will be ready to go again. But when continuous work becomes a way of life, it’s time to step back and take a longer break.

Change something. Learn what motivates and recharges you. Spend some time doing things you want to do, not things you should do. If you commit yourself to signing up for a cooking class, put a deposit down so that you will be more likely to follow through. You will also have the pleasure of anticipation and look forward to the event.

—cations. No, we aren’t referring to positively charged ions. A “­—cation” is a longer break from work, whether going somewhere far away (vacation), staying home and relaxing (staycation), or exploring the local area (playcation). If you can’t afford to get away, you can take short trips around your own city. What are the main points of interest nearby, and how many have you been meaning to visit? Go because you want to, not because you think you should.

Sometimes you need to take a break, step back, and return with a fresh perspective. This can help you determine if you need to push harder for a little while longer, or if it’s time to start pushing in a different direction. Even if there’s a pressing deadline, you can add in a short break and start planning for a longer one.

Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (



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