Rest is important. It’s a time for your body and mind to refuel. However, when it comes to your productivity, rest can cause setbacks by breaking you out of your routine and rhythm. On one hand, you know that if you don’t stop, you’ll burn out. On the other hand, if you are to pause your project now, you might abandon it altogether.
While I cannot pick the perfect time for your to take a break from your work. Whenever I need an extended period to not think or work on my writing, I give myself a few requirements to consider to ensure that I’d return and not lose momentum completely. Here’s what has worked for me, and perhaps something you can consider before you take your next break.
Get ahead, but don’t stay ahead
One way I reward myself with some well-deserved time off is when I get ahead. Let’s say I have a simple goal to write 50,000 words a month. That means I’ll need to write approximately 1,700 words a day. If I have a day where I write 5,000 words, that gives me a few days to relax. As long as at the end of the month I reach 50,000 words, I’m good. You can, of course, scale this approach up and down as necessary.
I do this with timeline-type projects too. Let’s say I want to publish a blog post every week on Monday. If I want to get ahead, I’ll have the blogs prepared and scheduled for the next three weeks. This means I can now take two weeks of guilt-free time off and still have one week of running room.
As a productivity fiend, I sometimes want to get ahead and stay ahead, but the whole point of being ahead is so you can take a moment and catch your breath.
Work on a different part
Sometimes the best way to take a break is not stopping altogether, but rather focusing on another part of your writing process that you don’t usually work on. This can mean doing research, growing your professional network, preparing marketing material, or learning a different skill to enhance your writing whether it’s visual arts, music, or physical performance.
While you might be taking a break from the most critical part — writing and editing — you are working on the details that can end up enhancing your overall project.
Before you start a project, set achievable milestones along the way. These are goals that are fully in your control, such as finishing the first draft. Milestones that shouldn’t dictate your time to recharge are those that are out of your control such as getting 5,000 subscribers to your newsletter. But rather, one you could set is something like sending 5,000 invitations. You can’t guarantee you’ll get 5,000 subscribers, but sending it to 5,000 people will surely give you some results and it’s achievable.
By setting these milestones and then hitting them as you go, you can rightfully reward yourself with a break regardless of the outcome.
Often taking a break from a draft or a work-in-progress allows you to come back with some fresh eyes. If you are trying to grow an account, this allows you time to see your execution in action. It’ll take time for people to sign up or buy your product. Give them time. And while they are doing that, you can sign off and take a break.
No more than two days off
One way I monitor my productivity is to keep a calendar and mark the days I write or work on my personal projects. The goal for me is just to keep a streak going. Breaking the streak isn’t a big deal, I just have one rule: I’m not allowed to break for more than two days in a row. Keeping my work steak going is important, but when I take a break, breaking my streaks for “breaking” is essential to maintaining momentum.
I also feel that three days is the amount of time where something can become a habit, so to not work on anything for three days, I risk my rest becoming a routine. Therefore, a two-day break is the max I’d give myself before I jump back into a part of the project — no matter how small that part is. See tip number two on working on a different part.
Just take a break (and don’t worry about it)
I use the previous techniques so I can get rolling again after taking some time to chill. However, I believe that if you need a break you should take it, and if your project is something you are genuinely passionate about, then you will return to it regardless of how long or how many breaks you take because it’s something you want to work on. Don’t worry about momentum, you’ll likely feel a rush to go back to it even if it’s after a few days, weeks, or months off.
If you don’t want to work on it anymore, maybe quitting wouldn’t be a bad idea. Maybe you’d rather spend your free time working on something else. That’s perfectly fine as long as you are happy. Sometimes taking that break will give you a new perspective and show you that the project you were working on was a bit toxic. There is no shame in quitting a project like that.
Are you having a hard time motivating yourself to write or finishing your work-in-progress? Check out this YouTube playlist here or this video about quitting your projects.
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The power of an ‘ing’ word is that it creates a progression of time. “The hero is flying over the city,” is more immediate than “The hero flies over the city” or “The hero flew over the city. “Ing” words have the ability to put readers right there in the moment.
There are 123 words in this paragraph and 6 of them are “ing” words. But what’s more important is where Hemingway positions them. They are close enough together that the “ing” words can almost echo off each other, building tension, but far enough away so that it’s not overdone.
You see, “ing” words come with a price. First, “ing” inherently adds another syllable to your word which can affect the pacing. Secondly, if you overload a sentence with too many “ing” words too close together, the power of immediacy is dampened by the repetitiveness of the sound.
Take a look at this sentence:
Remembering her time climbing the steps, Jodie was listening to the paramedics upstairs suggesting removing her ailing father through the window.
Six “ing” words appear in this 21-word sentence:
We have “Remembering” a present participle, “Ailing” an adjective, “climbing”, “listening”, and “suggesting” as verbs tenses, and “removing” as a gerund.
Grammatically, this sentence can pass, but you don’t need to read it too many times to identify the problem that the “ing” words cause.
Like so much of life, moderation is key. By limiting the amount of ‘ing’ words within a time and space, you build tension with fluid pacing. It allows your words to stand out independently.
Take a look at this revised passage:
Jodie remembered climbing the steps as the paramedics upstairs suggested removing her sickly father’s body through the window.
We went from six “ing” words in a 21-word sentence to two “ing” words in an 18-word sentence. Now, some might call it a matter of taste, but the second version is objectively punchier, and dare I say, more dramatic. By swapping out “ing” words with words that end with “ed” or “ly”, and rephrasing certain ideas, you allow the sentence to flow smoothly.
Keep an eye out and an ear open for those that are bunched together. Experiment with the spacing of these words and don’t ever feel trapped by your word choice, there is always a way to fix it.