The importance of taking a breather

Most of us enjoy taking time out for ourselves in our lives. Whether it’s having lunch with friends, going for a quiet walk or simply reading a book, we all have something that we like to do to recharge when we get the chance. All of us know that rest is important and yet so many of us – leaders as well as their team members – are sabotaging our own chances at getting the rest and relaxation we desperately need.

Getting away from the desk

According to Xero’s 2017 Travel Habits report, Australians racked up a whopping 111 million days of unused annual leave in just a 12 month period. It seems so many of us are just not taking the leave we’re owed and it’s easy to see why: when all is said and done, a holiday is never just a holiday. There’s time preparing for your absence in the lead up and then time catching up on everything you’ve missed when you return  – after a couple of days of being back it can feel as though you were never gone at all.

But, contrary to the photos we see all over our social media feeds, taking time to rest, recharge and relax doesn’t have to be a big holiday overseas. It can be as simple as putting the phone down, disconnecting from the constant stream of emails and stepping away from the desk. We’re lucky in Australia to have a culture full of people who love to work hard, so it’s fortunate that it’s in our nature to play hard too – it’s important that we remember both sides of the equation.

Leading by example

Many leaders find themselves feeling guilty for taking time out for themselves. Often, the first thing to go in a busy day is the time set aside for a quiet lunch or even leaving on time to get home to family. Leaders are just as guilty as anyone else of sacrificing their rest for the sake of their team or for work that ‘needs to be done’.

The reality is that most leaders would be horrified to learn that any member of their team had only had 5 hours of sleep each night for the last three weeks in a row. They’d be concerned if their team members hadn’t seen their friends or family in over a week and they would feel enormously guilty if this was all because they had been working overtime for the organisation.

So why do so many leaders let these kind of behaviours creep into their own lives? Actions speak louder than words when it comes to leading by example but in this case, a leader’s lack of action – the willingness to take a step back and breathe – will speak volumes to your team.

A few things to remember when you take a step back …

  • Sleep does not equal rest: sleep is extremely important – the 8 hour work day was designed around getting 8 hours of sleep and 8 hours of work, but it was also designed around fitting in 8 hours of recreation. It might not be possible for you to fit in 8 hours of recreation every day, but it’s important to fit something that gives you a break from work into your day.

  • Less time at your desk will make you more productive – it sounds a little backwards, but it makes sense: after all, if you’re at your desk for less hours in a day, you’re more likely to work hard while you are there. Try taking a break from your desk and walking around the office checking in with your team to see how things are going. You’ll be surprised by what you learn and how much they appreciate your interest.

  • Let your brain have a break – we all have natural peaks and pits during the day and the same goes for our working year too. You may not be in a position to take a month-long holiday but make sure you take a weekend to yourself and give your brain a break from your work. It’ll help you to work smarter and harder in the long run.

The upcoming festive season is the perfect time to take the step back that might be desperately needed. Take advantage of the holidays to take a deep breath, recharge, reconnect with friends and family and come back in the New Year refreshed and ready to tackle the year head on.

Are you ready to see how taking a breather could see your team performing at their best? People Make the Difference can help. To find out more, visit or call us on 0412 333 415. Try our online leadership training videos – $99 for complete access. Great value if you’re committed to growing your leadership potential.