Are you taking a break or wasting time?

In the 70s and 80s, McDonald’s Corporation ran an advertising campaign proclaiming that proclaimed, “You deserve a break today.” That phrase and the catchy tune that accompanied it went on to become one of the top ten ad campaigns of all time.

Simply brilliant! Who doesn’t think he or she deserves a break? And therein lies the number one excuse we tell ourselves for wasting time. We deserve a break.

Are you taking a break or wasting time?

Rest, of course, is necessary to rejuvenate and gain perspective. Research shows that engaging in relaxing activities helps us learn and solve problems subconsciously. Simple put, rest is critical for workingOf more effectively.

Yet, how do you know whether you’re relaxing or just wasting time?

Often, I find myself often struggling to keep relaxing activities from dominating my attention. It’s far too easy to get sucked into another level of Angry Birds, or even another chapter of a book. I’m especially vulnerable on long weekends when I have more “disposable time.” If you fall into the same time-trap, you may find the following questions helpful. I sure have.

  1. Am I avoiding something? The biggest clue that you might be wasting time is when you engage in break activities simply to avoid engaging in critical tasks. In this sense, even other productive actions can be considered time-wasters if they are done to avoid a more pressing need. If you can name the task you are avoiding, chances are your break activity has become a time-waster.
  2. Is the break activity a habit? Many activities can be restful, to a point. Even the most restful activity, sleep, can be abused when taken to excess. If you find yourself continually drawn to your break activities, perhaps even before you start your work day, it may have morphed into a time waster.
  3. Am I more recharged following the break activity? A sure sign of a time-wasting activity is that it doesn’t leave you more likely to engage in your work. Time wasters tend to leave you feeling regretful rather than recharged.

You do deserve a break. Work hard. Rest well. Just make sure that your rest isn’t costing you more than you wanted to pay. It’s wise to remember the remorseful words of King Richard in Shakespeare’s Richard II, ““I have wasted time and now doth time waste me.”

What other ways have you found to discern when an activity is restful or just a waste of time?

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