Accomplishment-Based Breaks

At some point, we all need to take a break from our work. Not only do we need a reward for a job well-done, but you reach a point where you simply can’t focus on your work anymore! When you’re deciding when to take your break, it’s usually better to take accomplishment-based breaks instead of time-based ones. A time-based break is when you tell yourself that you’ll work for a certain amount of time before stopping. A common time-based break philosophy is to work for 50 minutes of an hour and then take the other 10 minutes off. The problem with this philosophy is that it doesn’t really reward work, it only rewards the passage of time. If you’re working on a paper and you promise yourself a break after 50 minutes, once 50 minutes have ticked by you’ve technically earned that break, whether you’ve written 3 pages or 3 sentences.

Think about it- no one would go on a diet like that. People go on a diet with a goal in mind. “I’m going to lose 10 pounds!” “I’m going to gain 5 pounds of muscle!” Few people go on a diet and say, “I’m going to eat healthy for 5 days and then stop.” Accomplishment-based breaks reward the work you’ve done rather than the passage of time. Rather than saying you’ll give yourself a break from your paper after 50 minutes, say you’ll give yourself a break after the first 2 pages. This way, you’re rewarding the completion of a task. After all, your end goal is not for time to pass, it’s for your stuff to get done!!

Last Friday, I went to see my author friend speak at a book signing. When someone asked her how she got her writing done, she revealed her secret. She wrote 5 pages every day. No matter what. They didn’t have to be fantastic, she could always go back and revise them, but every day 5 more pages had to be completed that weren’t completed before. This plan is brilliant in its simplicity. I imagine that some days those 5 pages took very little time at all and some days they seemed to take forever. What struck me about her plan is that she had a daily accomplishment goal rather than a daily time goal. I had really expected her to say something like, “I work on my book for 2 hours when I get up in the morning or something like that.” Her accomplishment-based goal inspired me. We can all break up our big tasks into smaller chunks and create mini goals for ourselves throughout the day. It’s far better than watching the minutes on the clock tick by until our designated stop time.

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