Breaks. Vacation. The concept can feel foreign sometimes, can’t it? When your to-do list is one mile long and clients are waiting for projects, the idea of stepping away from the computer and setting down the phone can seem counterintuitive.

But, taking breaks is vital to our success. It fuels us mentally and emotionally. Breaks allow us to:

  • Form better relationships with our friends and partners
  • Stimulate our creativity
  • Rediscover our passions
  • Re-focus our mind
  • Increase our efficiency

Don’t believe us? Science backs us up. A 2008 University of Illinois study found that your brain’s attention span drops after a long period of focusing on a single task. This significantly hinders your performance.

Breaks negate this issue. But, some breaks are better than others. How can make the most out your time off? These are four ways to optimize your time away from your to-do list:

Move Your Body

Munching on some chips while surfing Facebook may not be your regular routine, but it’s hardly a way to reboot your brain.

Instead, get up and move your body. You could take a lap around your office, do 10 jumping jacks or dance to your favorite song. Better still, go for a walk outside. Breath deeply. Take in the grass, trees, and sky. Let your brain take a full break from the task at hand.

Let Yourself Be Social

Plan your break with someone who fills you up. This might be a co-worker, friend or family member. Your time together might be as quick as a coffee pit stop or as long as a noontime game of pickup basketball.

Regardless of the duration, be fully invested in your time with them. Don’t check your phone and leave your tablet alone. Allow yourself to fully unplug.

Take a Power Nap

A 20-30 minute nap can give you a huge energy boost, especially if you didn’t get much sleep. If possible, find a dark, quiet, and comfortable place to rest your head. The trick is to fall asleep quickly and set a very loud alarm.

Vacation Unplugged

Sometimes you just have to unplug. Yes, the smartphones and tablets are amazing tools. But, the 24/7 work life they’ve created can significantly stymie our ability to function at our peak. Go on vacation and unplug.

Worried about doing so? Give your clients a heads up. Set an email auto-responder with clear dates of when you’ll be unavailable. Update your voicemail with these same dates. Active on social media? Let your followers know you’ll be out of touch and when to expect you back.

Is unplugging all together simply not an option? Set clear guidelines for yourself while you’re on vacation. Give yourself a 30-minute chunk of time in the morning and a 30-minute chunk of time in the evening to check-in.