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Need to get more done? Take better breaks.

Stop for a minute and think about how you’re feeling right now.

Are you feeling tired? Overwhelmed? Do you feel like you have more to do than you can accomplish? Are you asking yourself to do more—to be more—than you’re comfortable doing and being?

Now think back to the end of your last vacation; you were feeling well rested and (hopefully) you got to spend some time with family, friends, and people you care about. How did you feel then? What’s the difference between NOW and THEN?

What if you could have that “vacation rest” experience every night, and come in every morning with energy and enthusiasm—like you just got back from vacation? Does that sound like an impossible dream?

Yet, if this is our life’s work—if this is the most important work we have to do in our lives—how can we settle for that distracted, unfocused, overwhelmed, tired version of ourselves? If the work you are doing is important—you need to find a way to do it with your best self.

1. Do less.

The greatest time management tool I have is figuring out ways to just not do things ~ @fraserspeirs

A big part of that overwhelmed, overworked feeling that you (and everyone on your team) are feeling, is because you are overwhelmed and overworked. I wish there was a simple hack for that. Well, there is a hack, it’s just not simple: do less.

Many of us have been overachievers since grade school—always getting more done than the other people around us. But now that we are in charge, we have created our own monster. Look realistically at your to-do list. How many of those things have been there for more than a month? How many of your emails have been sitting in the inbox waiting for you to deal with them since 2015? It’s. Not. Going. To. Happen. Let them go.

It can be really freeing and energizing to just give up on things that we have been hoping we’d get to; but, if we’re honest, we know we won’t get to. If you must, add them to a “someday-maybe” list. For me, that’s just a crutch. Things on that list are not getting done. Better just to delete them.

Don’t you feel better already?

2. Get some rest.

“It’s not the amount of time you spend working each day. Entrepreneurs get paid through problem-solving and creativity. You can create a solution in a shorter period of time if you are rested and rejuvenated.” ~ Dan Sullivan, Founder of Strategic Coach quoted in The Secret to Increased Productivity: Taking Time Off

When you feel overwhelmed and overworked, telling you to take a break seems like crazy talk. “What I need to do is to get more done! How does rest help with that?” Let me reframe it for you.

Let’s say you were on a 50 mile trek. You are strong and healthy, so the first 2 hours you walked 10 miles. The next two hours you only walked 8 miles. Your feet were starting to ache, your back was bothering you just a bit… In that situation, would taking a break seem like a good idea? If you got some rest, you might feel refreshed and ready to walk some more.

It turns out your brain works the same way! Idle time isn’t just a waste; it actually rejuvenates your brain, making you more creative, giving you more power to focus and opening you up to more joy!

Getting more rest does mean getting more sleep (including naps), but it also means getting more play. Hobbies are an incredibly important part of being productive. When you find things you enjoy doing—and you actually make time to do them—you are being kind to yourself. You are demonstrating to yourself that you are worth taking care of.

You can even develop some ways for your whole team to take breaks, play, and rejuvenate, so your whole team can be more productive.

3. Connect with people that matter to you.

“Half of CEOs report experiencing feelings of loneliness in their role, and of this group, 61 percent believe it hinders their performance. First-time CEOs are particularly susceptible to this isolation. Nearly 70 percent of first-time CEOs who experience loneliness report that the feelings negatively affect their performance.” ~HBR, It’s Time to Acknowledge CEO Loneliness

In your “role” as a business owner almost everyone wants something from you. Your clients want your product or service, they want you to take care of them so that their problems go away. Your team wants information, decisions, security, and money! Your “partners” (or vendors) want more business; they want to get paid.

Everyone wants something. And we work like crazy to give it to them. No wonder we’re stressed and overwhelmed!

You need some people in your life that don’t want to be around you because you can give them something. You need friends and family who want to be with you because of who you are.

When I’m able to be present with my friends and family, it makes it easier for me to deal with getting rejected by a prospect. It means that when a conversation with an employee doesn’t go well, I don’t have to wonder what that means to me, to my ego, and my self-worth. This is because I know I have a place to go where I am loved.

Loneliness makes us less productive; connection helps us to stay balanced and focused.

4. Be real (in the office too).

“No one wants to leave part of their personality and inner life at home. But to be fully present at work, to feel, psychologically safe, we must know that we can be free enough, sometimes, to share the things that scare us without fear of recriminations. We must be able to talk about what is messy or sad, to have hard conversations with colleagues who are driving us crazy. We can’t be focused just on efficiency.” ~What Google Learned From Its Quest to Build the Perfect Team

When you are having a bad day, do you try to hide it and go on, or do you stop and acknowledge what’s happening? How well do you really think you hide it? I’ll bet your staff knows you are having a bad day—and they’re wondering if they are the cause. (They are likely talking about it in the halls instead of getting their work done, too.)

Who is available to talk to? Do you have a confidant in the office? Someone whom you can be real with? Whom can you call and say, “I just had a conversation with an unhappy client and my confidence is shaken…” Whom do you talk to when cash flow is fantastic, but you’re not sure that you have the right team?

That kind of vulnerability has always seemed really risky to me; but now that I have those conversations, I can’t imagine going back! Instead of carrying that tension and worry around with me I can share it, feel it, make a plan to do something about it, and return back to my tasks more fully engaged.

And it’s not just good for me; it also makes my employees more engaged. When I’m vulnerable they trust me more, and are more engaged and focused.

If you’ve got this far in business you have likely already maximized any returns on “time-management”. To get further—to defeat that ”overwhelmed” feeling—you need to play a new game. You need to clear the decks to make way for your best self.

It’s not rocket science; though at first glance it does seem counterintuitive. Are you ready to switch things up, and bring your best self to work?

By the way, you can get a 5 day plan to get rid of that overwhelmed feeling and get moving again. Learn more here.