5 Benefits From Taking Monthly Breaks From Productivity.

When you sign up for the Monthly Method, you go through a three-week sprint. Then you have a week off – a break from productivity. I call it maintenance week. During this week you are not supposed to do anything related to productivity. All your goals are done. It is a nice break for you to have in between your sprints.

And it’s not that you’re not getting anything done during this week. It’s that you operate on a low effort level. If you’re an employee, you just show up for your work and you do things that you need to get done to not get fired. If you are a business owner, you do the things that you need to do on a weekly basis for your business to run. But you don’t get involved in any of the new initiatives, new projects. You don’t work on building new habits. You just give yourself a break.

When you don’t take breaks from productivity

I came up with this concept of maintenance week because I’ve made this mistake so many times before. I would go for a long stretch of time focusing too much on productivity and the goals that eventually I would burn out. I would rebel against the system.

After the burnout came this extended break from productivity I needed to take. During this lengthy break, all the habits I’ve built throughout the productive period would get neglected. Then I have to start building them from scratch.

It was a never-ending cycle:

work a long period  

take a break for a long period  

lose all the momentum and results

 start again

But what I realized is that if you take a monthly week off, you become much more consistent.

It’s a lot easier for your psyche to work three weeks at a time and then take a break. And then again, work three weeks. Rest for one. Rinse and repeat.

Working during this week off

Let me emphasize this idea one more time. Taking a monthly break from productivity doesn’t mean you have to go on vacation and do zero work.

It’s just that you take it easy. You don’t expect too much from yourself. You are not building new habits. You’re not waking up at 4:00 AM. You are not engaging in an over-optimized morning routine. None of that.

You do the daily activities you need to do in order to sustain yourself, sustain your business, sustain your employment, but nothing extra.

 

breaks from productivity


The Benefits

Benefit #1: It prevents burnout.

During this week, you can sleep in. You can finish work earlier if you have higher autonomy of your time – if you’re a business owner, professor, or a student. If it’s up to you to decide when to start and when to finish your workday, consider finishing your work earlier during this week.

Give yourself plenty of free time. You can book relaxing activities for this week. You can book attend social engagements. Do the things that you need to do in order to recharge. Engage in the activities that you want to do but don’t usually have time to do.

It’s crucial to do the activities from your want-to list.

Taking a monthly “week off” avoids burnout. I’ve been doing it a few years now. And I can say that it actually works. It is a break mentally. You’re not pushing yourself hard to do anything during this week. You’re not expecting too much of yourself. It feels like a break. And this allows all the mental pressure to release. 


Benefit #2: It adds to the quality of your life.

You can do fun things during this week.

Maybe it’s exploring a new neighbourhood in your city. Maybe it’s going on a mini road trip. Or going to a new restaurant. You have more time to do these things during a maintenance week because you’re not focusing on a bunch of to-dos.

You can actually do fun things that add to the quality of your life. These activities are what create fun memories. They are the things that add flavour and colours to the experience of being alive. You never want to miss on those things.


Benefit #3: You don’t rebel against the system. The key to consistency.

When you give yourself enough breaks throughout the process, you don’t rebel against the system.

Oftentimes, productivity tools, systems, diets, or exercise plans don’t account for the importance of these breaks. As a result, we, as users of these systems and plans, get tired. Physically and psychologically. Our brain starts to look for all the excuses that would allow us to stop following this method. If you don’t have breaks, your brain will find the reason to rebel against the system.

But when you give yourself enough time off, your psyche has enough time to relax, recharge, and then do it again with the new energy and new resources. With regular breaks, you never get to the point where you are too tired or too burned out. So your brain never has an excuse to start rebelling against the system.

When you don’t rebel against the system, you show up for it consistently. Under the Monthly Method, you only need to work for three weeks at a time. And then you always get a break. You only work for three weeks and then you have a week of “vacation time”. Isn’t it awesome?

The secret behind having returning clients

I think one of the main reasons why my clients return every month and they don’t need to take breaks throughout our time working together is because every month they have a week off from all the goals, all the productivity, all the tracking, and accountability.

They get to do whatever they want to do during this week. And I’m not bothering them. After a week off, they come back fresh and energetic. And we start again.

I haven’t had a single client who would say to me, “I’m too tired. I need a break for three months.” My clients get an opportunity to relax and recharge every single month. As a result, their brain is not looking for an excuse to rebel against the Monthly Method. 

 

Apply this to your goals to have consistency.

If you’re having trouble consistently showing up for your goals, check if you give yourself enough breaks throughout the process. Are you pushing yourself too hard? Do you ever allow yourself to take a break and be a human for a change?

You need to account for breaks when building a system to achieve your goals.

You psychologically need to take a break from always asking for more from yourself. And for the week off, you are content with your life. You give yourself a break from all of the thriving, from the endless pursuit of more. And this is what allows you to relax psychologically. 


Benefit #4: It gives you an opportunity to reflect on your sprint.

On the first day of a client’s week off, we do the sprint review. In scrum, it’s called sprint retrospective. I walk them through my favourite questions. It gives them the opportunity to review the previous three weeks. They how their sprint went. What worked? What didn’t?

Throughout the week, they keep reflecting on their sprint. And it’s important to give yourself enough time to reflect on your journey towards your goal. This is the key to continuous improvement.

A lot of people are talking about embracing continuous improvement, but you can’t really do that if you’re in the hustle mode all the time. When you were hustling 24 /, you don’t have free time available to actually pause, think back, analyze and strategically decide what can be improved going forward. Insightful reflection requires time and free space. You can’t really do it when you have a hundred to-dos on your list. You need the white space to reflect.


Benefit #5: It allows you to think big.

Having the white space allows you to think big picture. It allows you to step back from the daily grind and look at your life from the bird’s eye view.

Usually, it takes you a couple of days to shift the gears from go-go-go to pause and reflect. 

This free time allows you to ask important questions.

  • Are you on the right track?
  • Are you happy?
  • Are you doing the things that you want to be doing?
  • Where are you just going through the motion?
  • Where do I want to be in 5 years?
  • What will bring me closer to that ideal lifestyle I want to have?
  • What can I do in the next sprint to make this dream a reality?
  • What area of my life have I been neglecting?

My dad's strategic business changes.

My dad is an entrepreneur. When I was small and we wanted to go on a family vacation, my dad would not want to go. There were always things he needed to get done in his business. My mom would always have a hard time convincing my dad to go on vacation.

The first few days he was attached to his cell phone. He was still in a mode of the daily grind, answering emails, and putting out fires.

Then he would slow down and get into this different state of mind – reflective, long-thought, deep0thought kind of mind. He would spend hours on the beach, not even reading, just staring into the ocean and thinking.

That, almost enforced upon him, time off allowed him to step back. Look at his life. Look at his business. See what needs to be improved. Connect all the different pieces together.

When you’re in a daily grind, you only see a little distance in front of you. Just this one task. Just this one email. Just this one meeting. Just this one client. You rarely look further.

When you give yourself enough time to zoom out, you start seeing connections between different pieces of your life. You start seeing how the stress at work impacts your health and how it impacts your family. And then you have the time to create a strategic solution to this problem.

Conclusion

Ironically, one of the most productive things you can do is to take regular breaks from productivity. You don’t always have to thrive for more, do better, do more, go faster, go further. Sometimes it’s more effective to stop, do the bare minimum for that week, step back and look at your life from the bird’s eye view. That’s when you get the biggest insights, that’s when you can actually make the decisions that will fundamentally change your life.

Get Measurable Results on Your Goals in 3 Weeks


Read next:
    1. The Need-to vs. Want-to Cycle of Daily Life
    2. Time blocking Q&A
  1. Time blocking reduces stress

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