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Why Do We Take Fake Breaks?

In this episode of The GenTwenty Podcast, Nicole and Marina discuss taking breaks that are not truly restorative… or what they refer to as “fake breaks.”  Rest is necessary for us to function at our bests. And most of us don’t respect rest as much as we should.

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This transcript has been gently edited for clarity.

Nicole Booz: Welcome back to the GenTwenty Podcast! I’m Nicole…

Marina Crouse: And I’m Marina! Today we’re talking about fake breaks and how not really resting will just shove you into burnout mode. I’m going to take the reins on this one, Nicole, because I am the Queen of Fake Breaks and it’s not really something to be proud. A fake break, to me at least, is when you distract yourself from really feeling what you’re feeling or when you like half-ass rest.

For example, I often watch tv at night. Most people do, but I work while I do it because I’m thinking “oh I’m watching tv, I’m on a break.” But I’m working. I’m on my phone, I’m checking email, I’m doing things so my brain is now engaged twice as much as, when really I’m at the point in the day where my brain should just be turned off.

I feel like it’s this incessant need to be productive and we’re so focused on production and being productive that we forget to take care of ourselves. We can’t produce all the time, we can’t work all the time, and if that’s the only way for us to be surviving financially then the system is broken. So it’s not us, but it’s really hard to know that right? Because for me when I have all these goals and I’m not achieving what point I want to be achieving, my brain says “oh it’s because you’re not working hard enough” and that’s false.

When I worked at one of my last jobs I worked forty hours a week, full time, and was paid so little I could barely pay the rent so I was freelancing and working part time with GenTwenty.  I was working like sixty five hours a week total, and on the weekends, and it started really affecting my life. I thought “I’m just not working hard enough.” Really it was that I was really underpaid at my full time job and that was why I was struggling.

But anyway these fake breaks…We think we’re helping ourselves out but we’re actually not. Nicole, I want to talk to you about this because I think you’re pretty good at taking breaks and you’re pretty good at rest and I’ve learned from you. So how does resting help you as a full time business owner, full time entrepreneur, and full time Mom of two little boys.

Nicole Booz: That’s a lot of “full times” all in one sentence for sure. But I don’t know I I definitely do my fair share of multitasking of course which is you know, stressful at times.

But I really also try to make it a priority to do nothing and to really honor my own need to do nothing when I feel like that’s what my body is telling me. When my mind is telling me to do what the universe might be telling me to do because one thing for me is when I start making a lot of mistakes is that I know I’m doing too much. Just little mistakes on things I don’t normally make mistakes on, whether it’s setting up my content calendar, scheduling posts, missing errors and things.

Marina Crouse: Oh interesting.

Nicole Booz:  All in all I try to make my working hours as productive as possible and I think we’re always talking about this balance between work and rest right? But really, it’s like a sliding scale.

Truly. Sometimes I have to put more time into working because it’s just a busy season, I have a lot of commitments at this time, you know there’s a variety of things. But sometimes I do need to rest more and I have to honor that by separating myself from my work which is really difficult because I work from home. I’ve worked always worked from home and I’ve never set up these boundaries where it’s like “these are my work hours and these are my personal hours not work hours.”

Also when you’re a mom you also have more responsibilities where you need to give more of yourself to more people which you know is fine, but one of my like really hard boundaries is that I don’t fill up my schedule with calls.

Not that I hate calls, but I hate calls. They need to be very social calls. That’s fine with me but when I have work calls they need to have very clear objectives. We need to be getting to the point quickly and moving on because I only have so many hours of my day to dedicate to work like that’s just where I’m at in my life right now.

And as a more introverted person. It really does throw off my workflow to have a call because I have to like get ready for it and like hype myself up for this call, I’m not the kind of person who can just jump on and off a call. I need a transition period.

And calls can often drain me a lot more than just working so if something doesn’t need to be a call I don’t take it. That’s a very hard boundary for me and I’ve turned down things because I don’t want to be on calls and meetings constantly. I almost turned on a pretty big contract recently because they said that something was required and I was like “I can’t make that work” and they had another alternative thankfully. But yeah, that was a really big contract that I would have looked away from because it didn’t align with what I need for my work to do for me.

Wo what about your boundaries where you know what do you have boundaries around work?

Marina Crouse: Listen, I need to have more boundaries. They are in an ebb and flow state right now as I figure out my best working self but  I tend to… I don’t know if it’s because I’m a recovering people -pleaser or just because I’m such a curious, excited-to do-things person, but I say yes to too many things. My knee-jerk reaction when someone presents me something is “oh that sounds awesome. Yes,” and then when I lead up to it I’m like” I don’t have time for this” I need to put more boundaries around my time.

I’m in a position or in a flow state of figuring out new boundaries. But for the most part one thing I’ve really been adamant about is setting hard end times to calls, because like you I’m introverted and it takes so much out of me. So I try to communicate via email and I try to communicate very clearly via email so that everything is resolved shortly and not needing a call. I also I take big breaks during the middle of the day.

I figured out what one thing I really love about being my own boss is that I can work when I have the burst of energy to work. So I often wake up at 8, or wake up at 7:30, andI work from 8:30 till noon and then I take a long break for lunch and I’ll take a walk or unwind or have downtime or whatever and then work again from like 3 to 7 because that is my zone of energy.

I’ve had to I’ve had to be really strict on social calls because a lot of my friends and family are still on the east coast but I’m over here in California and they’ll call me at the end of their day which is right in the middle of my workday. And for so long I would pick up and say “okay I can chat.” But I’m working and then finally I realized “no, I’m just going to tell you I’m still working I can talk to you at 8:30 year time in the evening but I can’t talk before that” and that was a hard.

That was hard for me to do at first because I had a lot of feelings around it. But I think recognizing what you need takes time and takes iterations because like you were saying as a mom and a business owner and all these things your needs are going to fluctuate through the seasons and through the day.  I’m trying my best to recognize what I need and take it day by day. l

At the beginning of November, Nicole and I had this monthly meeting and we were really jazzed. We made a list for all the things we wanted to do in the next four weeks and then my brain looked at the list and said “great, let’s do it all this week” and let me tell you, it did not work out for me I had to take a day off because I just burned myself into the ground. That’s when I started realizing, “Oh I take a lot of fake breaks which is why I feel tired all that time.”

So yeah I think learning also learning to be unproductive is really important and something I’m actively in where you need to be unproductive in order to be productive. We’re humans. We’re not machines. We aren’t meant to produce.

Nicole Booz: I think kind of what you’re saying is normalizing rest and knowing that it’s okay to not doing things all the time. You don’t always have to be doing something that’s getting you to a certain place. You don’t have to be working on a personal goal. You don’t have to be working on a professional goal. You can just do something that you enjoy for the sake of doing it and you don’t need to have something else to accompany you.

Along with that like you don’t need to be working while you watch tv. You don’t need to be texting friends while you watch tv or while reading a book or something. I feel like the busier my schedule is the harder it is for me to turn off other things when I’m trying to rest. Which is a work in progress. Some days I’m really good at it other days, I’m really not. But again, it’s kind of like that sliding scale of different things have different priorities at different times.

In talking about rest, another hard boundary I have is kind of around sleep. Sleep is very essential for me. I’m not my best self if I’m not getting like eight to nine hours of sleep at night. I am a lot of sleep kind of person.

Marina Crouse: Yeah I need nine hours for my best brain.

Nicole Booz: At this point in time my second son is 8 months old and he’s still waking up through the night off and on. Some nights he’ll sleep the whole night, no problem, some nights he will wake up once or twice teething or developmental things.  I’m not always getting 8 hours every night so the nights he does sleep through the night I’m able to wake up early.

I’m also a jump into work right away kind of person. I like to wake up and just work for hours and then do other things in the day. So those days work really well for me because if he wakes up at 5:35 I’m like “cool feed you, put you back to bed, and then I’m off to start my day.” The rest of my house is still sleeping. It’s wonderful. Everything’s quiet I love it.

Then other days where he might be up at like 1 or he wakes up at four you know his schedule is  little off,  I’m way more tired. I can’t get up and start working at 5:35 it doesn’t work for me those days. So I have to be more gentle with myself and realize that I do need to sleep and honor this need for rest. Even if that does take away from work time. My husband starts work at a time which we kind of switch over point-parent duties at that point and I mean I still am breastfeeding my son now so you know I still have other people schedules to work around as I’m trying.

Marina Crouse: Yeah, unfortunately your husband cannot contribute into that action.

Nicole Booz: Yeah, it’s okay I don’t mind. But yeah, I know those days I have to choose rest instead of choosing work is what I’m trying to say and it’s being flexible with it. I think in an ideal world we’d have our ideal schedules every day but that’s just not how things work. I think you have to be really honest with yourself and truly separate work and personal time and kind of on this note something Marina and I have been discussing heavily this year I feel is the time we spend on Instagram and social media and this comes up a lot for us.

Marina Crouse: It’s brutal.

Nicole Booz: Yeah I think it’s something we end up scrolling through a lot like whether it’s Instagram or tiktok or whatever. I love connecting with people, I love talking with people on there and seeing what other people are up to, but it really does take a lot for me. As we’re having this conversation I’m about to delete Instagram off my phone for the first time since I downloaded Instagram probably, so I’m very hopeful that this goes well. I think it will go well for me and then a couple weeks maybe I’ll redownload it or something.

Marina Crouse: In like 2011

Nicole Booz: Yeah, it’s kind of stressful.

Marina Crouse: Yeah I took a Instagram break a month or 2 ago I don’t even remember, which means I need to do another one, but I deleted the phone from  I didn’t fully delete  the app from my phone but I deleted it from my home screen which meant I had to go and search for it if I wanted to use, it which really helped. I think I posted on my business Instagram and said “hey I’m taking a break for the week” and I told Nicole I was taking a break.  Because those are like my other business Instagram and then working with Nicole on Instagram those are the two reasons I’m on Instagram the most, professionally.

Communicating that and then walking away I could actually relax and take a break and it was so great. I had so many more hours in my day both logistically and mentally, where I wasn’t burnt out early in the morning.  I like to work in the mornings because that’s when I’m the most focused but that’s also while the caffeine is still cursing through my blood…as soon as the caffeine wears off and it’s after 2 p.m. I struggle. I think setting those boundaries is so helpful. But  I also think we were the generation of FOMO right? fear of missing out and if you accept that, yeah, you’re going to miss out on some things but it’s going to be because you’re doing other things that’s really helpful.

So I try to remember I can’t do everything at once, I can’t be producing all the time, I can’t be the like point person for everyone all the time. I’m allowed to take breaks. I think that is another thing is just not to feel bad when you need rest. Burnout should not be a badge of honor, working crazy hours and burning the candle at both ends should not be something we’re aiming to do.

Nicole Booz: And yeah and I think on a final note, you’re not missing out. You’re experiencing exactly what you need to be experiencing.

Marina Crouse: We should let ourselves rest.

Nicole Booz: And I think the more we can accept that and lean into that the easier it will be to take true breaks and actually get the rest we deserve.

Marina Crouse: Amen. Well thanks so much for listening. We hope this encourages you to take real breaks and let us know what you think! Geel free to email us or DM us on instagram…one of us will may be on but promises and thanks so much for listening and we’ll see you next time! bye.

About the Author

Nicole Booz

Nicole Booz is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of GenTwenty, GenThirty, and The Capsule Collab. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is the author of The Kidult Handbook (Simon & Schuster May 2018). She currently lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two sons. When she’s not reading or writing, she’s probably hiking, eating brunch, or planning her next great adventure.