In today’s world, everything feels like it’s “go, go, go, go.” Always running, and never catching up. Stimuli is constant, and the demand on our attention is unceasing. Living with constant attention pulling, and effort demanding things everywhere, burn-out is often not far away. Taking a break is rapidly becoming a lost art.
Now, I’m not talking about taking a break and browsing those fascinating click-bait articles online. Nor even sitting and watching a few episodes on Netflix.Those may be a break, but they are an unproductive break. I’m talking about a break with the purpose of relaxing, renewing, and refocusing. The discipline of taking this type of break is known in some circles as taking a retreat.
Taking a Break from What?
First and foremost, taking a break from anything and everything that resembles work.
For me, that means no writing on a computer during a retreat. Not because the retreat writing is work, but because my work revolves around writing on the computer and I need to take a complete break from it. It is for this reason that I use a notebook, or journal, and a pen to take notes when I’m on a refocusing retreat instead of my computer.
If you work outdoors, you may want to take your retreat indoors. If you work indoors, you may want to include some outdoor time in your retreat – either have it completely outdoors or just take a walk if the weather is too inclement for sitting and thinking outside.
You know what you enjoy best. I like adding some quiet instrumental music to my retreats, and enjoying a cup of tea while I take notes and reflect.
The Ancient Purpose of A Break:
A break gives you a chance to refocus, realign yourself with your goals, and prepare to jump back in with renewed purpose and a renewed sense of the bigger picture.
Historically speaking, seasons would often provide natural breaks and times to reflect. A farmer may take some time in the winter to evaluate how different crops did, and how he should improve his farming. In today’s world, seasons are ignored and we must choose to take the time to take a break.
Today, experts in many fields recommend taking a break, a retreat, or a time to reflect and evaluate. This is particularly true in the business realm, and also in the church realm. One of my university courses even had taking a half to full-day retreat as one of the assignments!
How to Take a Break or Retreat:
My course, and many others suggest taking a retreat that is half a day, to a full day in length. Personally, I find a half day retreat to be the easiest to work into my schedule and fulfill. However, a break can be as short as an hour, or as long as a weekend. It just depends on what you need to focus, evaluate, and plan for what will happen next.
While I like my half-day retreats every month, I also take shorter one or two hour planning retreats each week. This helps me stay focused on my goals and the successes or failures that happen. As well as adapting quicker to changes, and being more readily able to re-focus and re-aim the strategies needed to reach my goals.
The first step to a successful retreat is to plan it a few days in advance. Tell your roommates that on X day at X time, you cannot be disturbed and make it an appointment on your calendar that must be kept. This is an appointment of You with You. Make sure you keep it!
For a half day retreat, I recommend doing it in the morning and starting it as soon as you wake up. No internet or email checking beforehand! Plan your meal and morning cuppa the evening before, and start your day by reflecting over the past few weeks, or months, as you enjoy your breakfast.
Once breakfast is over, review more of the past few months through any journals you have kept, or if this is for a business purpose, look over progress notes and stats. Then take a walk or listen to music, and let your brain explore the past and begin to look toward the future.
In a standard retreat, I will also take time to read my Bible and listen to half an hour or an hour of worship music while reading. If you aren’t into the Bible, choose another inspiring book to read instead, and your favorite inspiring music to listen to. Use headphones if you are in an apartment or shared housing.
While reading and listening, start taking notes and making plans. Learn from what has happened in the past few months, and plan ahead for the next few months. Don’t be afraid to plan bigger than you think possible. If you plan too small, you may hit it and miss something even better that might have happened. If you plan too big and work hard to achieve it, you may not reach that goal, but you may be well ahead of where you would have been if you’d aimed at the achievable instead of at the dream.
I find that a full-day retreat does not work as inevitably somebody will need something at lunchtime and all focus gets quickly lost. Taking the break as a half day means that the rest of the day you can work on normal things, or if interruptions don’t happen you can expand your retreat. If you’re like me though, you will get revved up by a new idea during the retreat and that idea and strategy will take over your afternoon quite happily.
Notes for a Successful Break:
Turn off all devices and notifications. If you can, or have to, turn off your wireless router the night before so you don’t start the day with emails. Turn off your phone, text messages, and social media notifications as soon as you wake up, or the night before to avoid distractions. Nothing is worse than having a brilliant idea, starting to write it down, and having a notification pull you into the media black hole as your brilliant idea sinks into nothingness because it did not get fully written down.
Back To You:
How do you practice the art of taking a break? Do you take retreats or breaks at all during the year, and do you find them valuable?
Leave a comment, I enjoy hearing from you!