Oct 08, 2021

Take Breaks Before You Break

By: Michelle Burk-Gomez


The stress of unpredictable commute times, bumper-to-bumper traffic, trying not to spill your coffee as you wonder aloud where people learned to drive… all these simple “pleasures” of working life have been replaced for me. I’m sure I’m not alone.

Now my biggest worry going to work is trying not to step on random Mini Brands as I make the 10 second commute from my kitchen to my desk. Don’t know what Mini Brands are? Picture all the items in your pantry miniaturized like that movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Only these little figures were designed on purpose and, I believe, in a way to make stepping on them in bare feet as excruciating as possible.

But I digress…

As I start my day as an Account Director at A Brave New, it’s usually around 5:30 a.m. My calendar and Teamwork tasks are already at capacity, which means I need to spend the first part of the morning trying to figure out which fires are burning the hottest.

Oddly enough, this is usually the most peaceful part of my day.

By 6:30 a.m., I’m forced to channel my inner mediator as I negotiate with two cannonballs ages twelve and seven. Trying to wake both of them is like trying to wake the dead, and once we’ve argued over which color uniform — yes, uniform — they want to wear to school, I’m slamming Eggos into the toaster, throwing lunches together, and finally hustling them into the car so we can make the drop-off line with minutes to spare.

By the time I return home, I’m already mentally taxed, my mind replaying all the ridiculous things I’ve been forced to say over the past hour. Things like “Don’t fart on your sister’s pillow” and “Yes, showering and deodorant are required in this house” and “No, clothing is not optional for school.”

Then, finally, it’s time to actually put my business woman hat on and get down to work.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my work — sometimes too much. Solving complex problems is something that energizes me, and I enjoy running through metrics with clients to show them how their business is thriving with the help of A Brave New. 

The problem, though, is that by the time I finish my Zoom meetings, the girls are already getting home from school while I still have a todo list at least 8 hours long. And that’s before I have to think about what to feed the little mongrels. 

No wonder I feel an emotional bond with the steady stream of Uber Eats drivers visiting our home most evenings.

How do I navigate all this chaos while still being productive at work? I admit it’s taken me a while to crack the code, but it all came down to one simple thing: being deliberate with my time.

That may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how much of a difference it has made to both my health and my sanity. Here’s three tips if you’re struggling to find the right balance:

  1. Take control of your calendar. Instead of allowing other people to dictate my daily schedule, I set up specific blocks of time for meetings, work execution, and even gym time. 
  2. Step away when you’re losing it. Sometimes you have to completely disconnect for a bit in order to refill the creativity tank. After challenging calls, interruptions from my kids, or aggravation stemming from a task, I take a lap or two around the block. The fresh air, combined with not staring at a screen for a while, is just the mental break I need.
  3. Have a start and stop time for work. This, while easier said than done, is the most important thing to focus on. The secret is to realize that work not done today is still going to be there tomorrow. No, I’m not encouraging you to intentionally miss deadlines, just to remember that your home life is just as important as your job. That’s why I always make sure to turn off the lights in my office at the same time each day, then put my phone aside until 9 p.m. 

Look, life is never perfect. Trying to stay sane when things are normal — let alone these past two pandemic years — is always a challenge. But letting your work bleed into your home life is always a recipe for burnout.

So be intentional with your time. Set boundaries, take breaks, and find moments to enjoy the little things that will bring you joy. Work will always be there, but you have to know when to leave it at the door — even if you can rarely leave your house.

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