The importance of taking a break

By Rob Zwetsloot. Posted

This issue, I wrote a feature about getting fit with Raspberry Pi and it reminded me of the fitness concept of how rest is equally important as actually working out. In terms of your body, exercising depletes you of resources and damages muscle fibres – resting allows you to get your energy back, and for the muscles to repair stronger than before.

On a basic level, making sure to take breaks while making can be a safety precaution. Nobody should be soldering while they can barely stay awake, after all. More importantly, sometimes you need to put some space between yourself and a project to allow your brain to rest. Constantly hitting it against a problem you’re having is hardly a good way to solve it.

Sleep on it

I once read a (possibly apocryphal) story about how a scientist fell asleep while trying to figure out how they got some specific results – while asleep they dreamt about a solution and, after waking up, found out it was correct.

I’ve never quite had a eureka moment in my dreams like that myself, but there have been plenty of times when a bit of engineering and/or code have stumped me until I looked at it with fresh eyes the next morning.

Even writing stuff for the magazine can benefit from a break. Sometimes an angle or a subject isn’t quite making sense and that little bit of time apart helps focus my thoughts. And in terms of focus, the Pomodoro method of 30 minutes of work with a five minute break also really helps me. We had a project about making your own Pomodoro timer in issue 103 which I should make. However, I’ve just been using my phone and its Focus feature.

At the other end of the spectrum, all-nighters really are overrated I feel, although as I near my fourties, they’re a little harder to do anyway. It means I’m doing them much less though.

On hiatus

As well as short breaks, sometimes you need to just take time off a hobby. Burnout is very real, whether it’s with work or with something you’re doing for fun, and you don’t want to ruin your relationship with your favourite hobby because you forced yourself to keep doing something. When taking breaks from one hobby in the past, I’ve focussed on another hobby instead. Flexing a different part of your mind and/or skill set is always good for growth – and can even aid you in other hobbies. Although, sometimes, you have that con crunch and need to get your prop working by any means necessary. Just make sure not to do any soldering in the hotel room; I speak from experience. It’s not a very suitable space.

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