How to take a break from work (and not feel guilty)

April 19, 2015, 3:00 PM UTC
Courtesy of Gay Gaddis

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: How do you stay motivated at work? is written by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.

Every day when I walk into my office, I ask myself, “If I am not having fun or learning today in my own company, how can anyone else?” This simple question has helped me stay motivated as a leader, while setting the tone for an interesting and captivating work environment for my employees. At T3 the schedules are demanding, and deadlines are always looming, but with mutual respect, a sense of humor and sometimes just plain-old wacky fun, we get the job done. In addition to keeping my entire staff motivated and excited to work, I do have a few tricks for keeping myself focused.

First, I find time for creativity outside of the office. For me, it may be bumming around a thrift store, pulling weeds in my garden, or painting. For others it could be reading a book for enjoyment (not business), training for a marathon, or trying a new recipe. Taking quick breaks is the key. Yes, a long vacation will recharge your batteries, but taking an extended break is not always possible and can be few and far between. The main idea is to realize it is okay to take your mind off of work and do nothing sometimes. Even watching TV for 3 hours qualifies if that is what you truly enjoy. Don’t feel guilty—just do it!

Additionally, I realized a long time ago that some days I am not going to be on my A-game. Like everyone, I lose focus and have a hard time keeping myself in the harness sometimes. On those days, I try to take the emphasis off of myself and listen to others instead. I’ll walk the halls, and listen to my team members tell me about their lives, the projects they are working on, and ideas they have and I’m instantly reenergized. I have found that listening is important, because we all run out of answers and even with my years of experience, you can always teach an old dog new tricks. If that doesn’t work, try complimenting someone. When you take time to thank people for a good job or a great idea, it will immediately motivate you.

And lastly, sometimes a lack of motivation comes because you have lost sight of the goal. Today, it is easy to get overcommitted, tired, and fill our lives with trivial things while letting the end goal escape us. You may never find that perfect balance, but you should put all of the major life issues into buckets, figure out if they make sense, and evaluate the plans you have in mind. My husband and I call it a life map. Visually draw the paths you will take to reach your final goal. To me, understanding yourself is the best way to kick-start finding motivation.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: How do you stay motivated at work?

3 ways to recharge at work by Kara Goldin, founder and CEO of Hint Water.

How to impress your boss at work (the right way) by Erica Galos Alioto, vice president of local sales at Yelp.

How this CEO finds motivation at work every day by Perry Yeatman, CEO of Perry Yeatman Global Partners.

The art of staying motivated at work by Beth Fisher-Yoshida, director of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Program at Columbia University.

The best lesson I learned from joining a board by Juliet de Baubigny, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

5 secrets to stay motivated at work by Sarah Robb O’Hagan, president of Equinox.

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