College students often joke about driving themselves to the point of exhaustion to get a good grade on an exam. Looking back, many of us remember sleepless nights spent cramming so that we could achieve our dreams.
As it turns out, that “respect the grind” mindset followed many of us into the professional world.
This is the case whether we’re talking about startups or well-established companies. In both circles, many of us are willing to put in off-the-clock hours.
Further, our peers often find our extreme dedication commendable.
In reality, we should not be driving ourselves to exhaustion trying to see our jobs through.
Taking a break is natural – even necessary – if you want a single project or an entire business to succeed.
In fact, removing yourself from your work environment and responsibilities is said to boost your motivation and your performance.
So, how can you determine when it’s time to grind and when it’s time to take a breather?
You Make Frequent Mistakes
Have you had to retype an email more than twice due to a content mistake? Have you mistyped data into your spreadsheets and had to rework the whole thing?
These sorts of instances don’t mean that you’re not cut out for your job.
These mistakes, and others like them, may be a sign that it’s time for you to take a break from work. They are an embodiment of your broader exhaustion.
You need to honor that exhaustion and step away from your computer or office. That way, you can come back at a later point refreshed and ready to move forward with your projects.
Your Motivation Is Low
Many of us have trouble getting started on our work, especially towards the beginning of the week.
There’s a difference, though, between the Monday blues and a sense of overall exhaustion. Burnout is real, and it’s something to watch yourself for.
If you’re feeling physically or emotionally drained by your work, it may be time to step out of the office.
Taking time to engage a different part of your brain – even if it’s just to eat a sandwich or take a walk – can help you recover from a bit of burnout.
Do note, though, that burnout is a severe form of exhaustion. It will take several concentrated days of rest to pull yourself back from burnout, so make sure to clear the time to let yourself recover.
If you’re not feeling motivated or as though your work is draining you, it may also be time for you to consider a different approach to your workload.
You’re Having Trouble Focusing
Similarly, you may notice that, after a long day at work, you have a difficult time focusing on the job you need to do.
Check in with yourself at the office. Are you back on Facebook? Are you browsing Twitter? Are you looking up careers at the local renaissance fair, just because it’d be a change of pace?
If you’re doing any of these things, then you need to take a break.
Step away and breathe, or meditate on what’s distracting you. You may be able to return to work right away, but you may also need to step out of the office and give yourself a full day to recharge.
You’re Sacrificing Personal Events
The last thing you want to do is miss out on a friend’s birthday, a wedding, or an anniversary because you’re busy with work.
If you’ve been absent from get-togethers with your friends and loved ones, it may be time to take a long look at your work schedule. Programs like Timeneye will help you determine how much time you’ve been spending on your projects and whether or not that time should be reallocated.
It’s not just friends, though, that you need to be looking out for.
When was the last time you made time for yourself?
This means self-care, sure, but it also means taking the time to make yourself a meal after a long day. It means indulging in your hobbies and things that make you happy. If you’re compromising your own happiness, hobbies, and relationships for the sake of your job, it may be time to take a step back.
After all, we work to let ourselves live. You shouldn’t be living to work.
You Feel Ill
Finally, your body will tell you if it thinks you’ve been overworking yourself.
If you wake up and you feel ill, when the day before you were perfectly fine, then your body is telling you that it’s time for a break.
We can push ourselves too far and too long, it’s true. But at some point, we need to recoup and recharge, not only so we can get back to work, but so we can get back to ourselves.
There is no shame in taking a break from work. It’s been proven that the “rise and grind” culture in which we live is actually actively unhealthy for us all. So take a walk outside or schedule a day to leave work early.
Your body, motivation, and sense of self will thank you for the time away.