Know your target? See your bullseye? Got a bulletproof plan to succeed? Great – now step back and take a day off. Confused? You’re not alone. When you have a serious goal and a clear plan that you are motivated to execute, one of the most difficult decisions to make is when to step back and take a break in order to improve your forward progress.
As much as you’d like to believe that you are a superhero, your mind, body and spirit are not indestructible. Sometimes, you need a break in order to perform at peak levels. It’s knowing the difference between being tired vs being at risk that can be difficult. Nobody wants to throw in the towel for a rest-day because they are tired but, taking a rest day to avoid burnout, injury or massive project mistakes can be critical. Taking time off can exponentially improve your success. Sticking to a plan beyond a risk point can be catastrophic, either setting you back or absolutely crushing your ability to achieve your goals.
So, how do you know when to step back vs when to put your head down and grind it out?
Listen to the voices in your head. When you start to experience loss of motivation and thoughts of defeat, raise a red flag. If you are experiencing internal dialogue that is more along the lines of talking yourself into working on your project vs. pumping yourself up about a chance to make some gains, take note. When your drive and spirit start to break, you need to step back and revisit the reasons why you are working towards your goal. Revisit the gains you have already made and successes you have experienced. Refuel your fire. Trying to do work that is part of you plan when your heart isn’t in it will result in a low quality of work, potentially harming your project, injuring your body and creating more work that you have do over again. Step back and rekindle your spirit. Get back on the plan once you’ve regained focus on your purpose.
Check in with your body. Any symptoms of physical strain, overuse and deterioration need to be realized and respected. A physical limitation (soreness, weakness, stiffness, etc.) that prevents you from being able to fully execute today’s component of your plan should be noted and addressed. Continuing to push forward with a physical restriction can cause more harm than good. First off, you aren’t going to be able to fully execute your plan which will inevitably slow your progress. Secondly, you may be worsening the condition by continuing to place stress on an obvious irritation. This is a lose-lose situation. Take time to evaluate what the issue is, involve advisors when needed and step back to follow the best course of action for healing. This rest and remedial activity will enable you to return to a position where the work you put in will be rewarded with progress towards your goal.
Pay attention to your acuity. When your ability to focus deteriorates, your quality of work will decline. This is a critical sign of mental burnout. When you cannot concentrate at a reasonable level, the work you produce, whether physical or intellectual will suffer. We all want to believe that we are expert multi-taskers. However, as Dr. David Meyer points out, we only have one brain. An inability to fully focus on the key tasks that make up your goal map will result in errors, additional stress, potential injuries, poor quality of overall work and ultimately wasted time with more work to do later. One of the greatest consequences of stubbornly working ahead despite burnout is the false sense of task completion leading to the delusion of being on-track to your goals. When you cannot focus, you cannot deliver the best results from each task and you will ultimately be behind on your goal plan. When you can’t focus, step away and work specifically on a single task at a time (make dinner OR read a book OR walk the dog – ditch the smartphone and focus). Give your brain a break and retrain on how to be 100% present for each task. A short break to regain focus will catapult your results when you tackle the next task on your plan.
My personal plan to ‘Check Myself Before I Wreck Myself’ is to do a quick inventory at the end of each day. On a scale of 1-10, 1 being poor, 10 being awesome, score the following 3 personals statuses:
- Physical status in relation to the demands of my current plan?
- Motivational status to stay on track with my goal strategy?
- Ability to fully focus and devote my full effort to my tasks?
If the total score is less than 24 (less than 80%) It’s time to step back and inventory exactly where to focus. If one score is obviously lower than others, take the appropriate approach to manage that set-back. If there are 2 or more scores lower than 8, manage each one appropriately to restore an 80%+ score on each.
Best Yourself Insider Tip: it’s very rare that you will suddenly score low on #2 or #3. When you complete this self-audit daily, you’ll likely catch motivation and focus issues early and if you step back momentarily and address the issues, you’ll be back on point tomorrow. #1 is a bit trickier as injuries, ailments etc. can pop-up at a serious level anytime. Be sure to take the time you need to increase your #1 score back to over 80%. You may need to adjust the physical demands of your plan to meet your current needs. This strategy will allow you to keep your scores on #2 and #3 high and work to get 100% back on track with your plan.
It’s not easy to admit you need a break. It’s harder to manage the aftermath of being too stubborn to recognize your own cries for help and care for your personal wellbeing. Remember, the goal is to achieve daily progress based on your own goals and past achievements. If YOU are not in good shape, it’s hard to Best Yourself.