Why a Relaxed brain works better than a Tired Brain


Most people work. Then they work some more. And they never take time off.

There are two reasons why people don’t take time off
1) They wear it as a badge of valour.
2) They can’t see how they could possibly take time off.

Let’s tackle the ‘badge of valour’ first
Leonardo Da Vinci was almost certainly a workaholic. If you look at the amount of stuff he invented and created, it’s more than likely that he’d have been working long hours almost all his life.

Yet Leonardo had some wisdom he wanted to pass on to us. Here’s what he said: “Taking time off work, gives a person perspective.” Ah, perspective. Sitting at your desk, plugging away keeps your perspective just three feet away.

You can’t really see your work for what it is. Heck, you can’t even see your life for what it is. Yet there are people who say “work is everything”. These people are generally fooling themselves.

They aren’t afraid of vacations, per se. They’re afraid of something else.
When they say “work is everything”, it usually stems from issues such as ‘money’ or ‘prestige’ etc. Their work is tied to earning more, or getting more pats on the back.

So they work endlessly. They take their phones with them everywhere. Their laptops never boot down. And you only have to see the contempt on the faces of their kids or friends to know that these folks stand alone.

?Taking time off scares them. It’s not that work is everything. It’s that without work, they’re nothing. So they hang on to endless work. And my advice to people who work endlessly is: Get an appointment with a doctor. Sooner or later you’re going to need one.

But what if you fall in the second category?
You may like breaks and vacations but can’t afford to take one. You need to pay the bills. The expense of a vacation is just too much to bear. And if that’s your excuse, then recognise it for the excuse it is.

You don’t need a three-month vacation—not quite yet. You can start with two days off. The key is to take two days off from your workplace and head off some place nearby. Some place not so expensive. And don’t take your phone and laptop. Two days without technology will rejuvenate you no end.

In the early days at Psychotactics, we worked pretty much seven days a week.

It wasn’t a smart move. So we started taking days off. But taking days off and staying at home doesn’t help much. Taking the time off literally means dragging yourself out of the house and some place else. Which is what we’d do. And in a short time we were taking a fair bit of vacation time.

So how does the break help?
We already know it gives you perspective on your work. You come back with different ideas. A different outlook. But more importantly, it gives your brain some time to rest. A brain at work is a wonderful brain, but it needs to just relax from time to time.

A relaxed brain works faster and more efficiently than a tired brain—and you don’t need me to tell you that.

So what do you do?
Stage 1: Organise short breaks. Just two days off here or there will help a lot.
Stage 2: Organise a week away. Though frankly speaking, two-three days is just as effective as a week.
Stage 3: As you get more leveraged, take more time off. We now take between 3-4 months off every year.

And there’s a final twist to this story
Some years we didn’t take breaks. We didn’t do the vacation bit. And in every one of those years, we not only worked harder, but earned less.

How is this possible? It’s simple to explain. If you have a vacation coming up, or even a weekend break, you work more efficiently. You get seven days work done in five days. If you have no break you’re less efficient, chomping up seven days for seven days work.

And at the end of seven days, you’re tired and the next week starts a lot slower than if you’re relaxed and re-charged.

But what about the money part of things? This is harder to explain, but let me try anyway.
Some of my best ideas didn’t come to me while at work. They came to me while I was away. These ideas were then put into play when I got back. And they made us more money than ever. Sitting at my desk would be counterproductive both for relaxation as well as revenue. So I did the smart thing: I packed my bags and took off on a break.

And while I never planned these breaks in advance, I now do. When January 1 rolls along, I plan every break. I have short and longer breaks. Every 12 weeks or so, I take a long break. Every six weeks or so, I take shorter breaks.

And I have them planned at the start of the year. And since the year 2011, I even started booking flights (where applicable) in advance, so I couldn’t back out of the break.

Taking time off isn’t a luxury
It’s part of your business.
Whether you start up a new business or a new project, you need time off.
Plan it. Then execute.

Leonardo would be proud of you.


Sean D'Souza


15+ years ago, fresh out of college with a degree in accounting Sean de Souza joined an advertising agency where he *met* Leo Burnett, a man who had spent his lifetime in the hard trenches of communication and advertising.

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