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Taking A Break May Be The Most Important Thing You Do Today

Startup founders work all the time; it’s the nature of the beast. That also means that people who work for startups – writers like me, designers, marketers – inevitably end up working all the time too. Creating something from nothing means thousands of hours slaving away but I’m hear to tell you something really important:



It’s time to take a break.

If you feel your heart racing at even the idea of stepping away from the computer (I JUST HAVE ONE MORE PAGE OF CODE TO WRITE AND THE HOMEPAGE DESIGN ISN’T FINISHED AND WHO WILL SEND ALL OF THE TWEETS?!?), I need you to take a deep breath.


In. Out. I’ll walk you through this.

In all seriousness, taking a break is exactly what you need if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere these days. This is something I learned the hard way this week (again, because let’s be real: I have to re-learn this lesson on the regular) when I just couldn’t get myself to produce anything that anyone in their right mind would want to read.


This is what happens when I don't take breaks.

This is what happens when I don’t take breaks.


I slammed dishes around the kitchen, whined to my boyfriend, and pouted a lot, none of which seemed to do any good. It wasn’t until last night when I took a walk and then spent a good couple of hours cooking a red pasta sauce from scratch that I was finally able to write again.


But don’t trust me. Science says so too.

Creativity expert David Burkus talks about the need for breaks in a recent column in the Harvard Business Review. He points out that our best “eureka!” moments happen when we’re not focusing on the problem at hand, a period he (and scientists) refer to as the “incubation” period.


It’s basically exactly what it sounds like: your subconscious works out the things that your conscious mind couldn’t get a grasp on. Your brain is incubating your ideas, allowing them to come out fully formed when you consciously come back to them. Incubating also gives your brain time to get out of whatever groove you’ve worked yourself into as you try to work out the same problem over and over again.


But if you’re still not buying it, Burkus also points to a recent study that compared listing as many uses for an object as possible either in four straight minutes or for two minutes followed by another (either related or unrelated) task and then two more minutes of brainstorming. The group that generated the most ideas? You got it: the one with the unrelated task break.


This is what happens when I DO take breaks.

This is what happens when I DO take breaks.


The lesson here?

Here in startup land, we tend to fetishize working too much. Stealing a nap under your desk (if you even have one) or just not sleeping at all are considered badges of honor as you work your hardest to get your company from idea to website to profit and I’m not saying that’s all bad. I’m just saying, you know, you should really take a little break.


Photo Credits

John Lambert Pearson | Emma McGowan | Benjamin Evans

Author : Emma McGowan

Emma is a proud native of Burlington, Vermont, who has lived in six different countries over the past two years. She's living and loving the global nomad life and writing about technology and startups everywhere she goes. Check out more of her writing about tech on (the more titillating stuff) KinkAndCode.. Follow her on Twitter @MissEmmaMcG.

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