The 4-Minute Work Break: Give Yourself a 12-Month Summer Vacation

beach sunset

If you liked The 4-Hour Work Week but still have a regular job, listen up:  You’re spending way too little time on vacation.  Some of the most stressed-out people I know weekend in lovely settings out east or down the shore.  They remind me of prize fighters who retreat to the corner of the ring for a quick wipe with a towel and a word from the coach before they head back in for more punches.

We’ve all done it:  You laze on the warm sand or in the water, tuck away your office BlackBerry, spend evenings unwinding under the stars.  Your whole body slows way down.  But before you know it, you’re back in the city, rushing around again.

What if, instead of figuring your weekdays are bound to be relentless, you were to take a daily mini-vacation?  I’m talking about a simple ritual I’m calling the 4-Minute Work Break:  Do nothing for a few minutes.  Nothing.  Just wait and rest in the moment.  For many people, nothingness and silence are scary, almost intolerable.  You stop talking and doing, and life seems to have come  to a screeching halt while the meter’s still running.  “What should I be saying?” you wonder.  “What am I supposed to do now?”

And that’s the point:  to pull yourself out of  what you “should” be doing and shift gears.  Resting in the moment is an opportunity to give your whole body something close to that relaxing-on-the-beach feeling.  You don’t need to be a meditation master.  Just turn off the sound on your phone, push your chair away from those screens, and focus your attention on your inhaling and exhaling.  Picture a lovely, peaceful place and imagine yourself relaxing there.  Or close your eyes and inwardly repeat the words to a comforting lullaby or prayer you loved in childhood.  When all else fails, just remind yourself to exhale. Now do it again.

Don’t wait till you’re on overload.  Set aside a few minute for daily practice.  That way you’ll have this tool in your kit for times when you really need it.

And there you have your 4-Minute Work Break.  For the briefest interlude, let yourself simply be, setting aside worries and expectations and responsibilities.  Those aren’t going to go away, but giving yourself the gift of a few moments in time is a refreshing break you can take all year long.

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