The Importance of Taking a Break

Thomas Steffen
3 min readSep 25, 2023

Stepping away from a challenging task can often be the key to finding a solution. There’s been a number of times I’ve gotten stuck on a problem, not just in programming. I’ve struggled and couldn’t come up with a good solution that I liked or was efficient enough. At some point, you need to just take a break, even if you are determined to figure something out.

One of the most significant benefits of taking a break is its positive impact on creativity. When you’re stuck on a problem, your mind can become fixated on a single approach. Stepping away from the problem, even for a short time, allows your brain to relax and wander. This mental freedom often leads to fresh insights and novel solutions.

During a break, your mind can make connections it might have missed while you were intensely focused. Many great ideas and breakthroughs have occurred when individuals temporarily set aside their work and engaged in unrelated activities. These moments of inspiration often strike during a walk, a jog, a shower, or a leisurely cup of coffee.

It’s also important to note that continuously grappling with a challenging problem can lead to burnout. Burnout occurs when you experience prolonged stress and exhaustion, resulting in a decline in productivity and overall well-being. Taking breaks can help prevent burnout by allowing you to recharge both mentally and physically.

When you step away from your work, you give your mind a chance to reset. Returning to the problem after a break, you’ll often find that you have more mental clarity and energy to tackle it effectively.

Sometimes, you can become so focused on the issue at hand that you lose sight of the bigger picture. A different perspective or fresh perspective can be key. You might discuss the problem with a colleague, explain it to a friend, or even write down your thoughts. This act of articulating the problem to someone else or documenting it can help you see it from different angles. You might realize that the problem you perceived as insurmountable is, in fact, manageable with a fresh approach. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve explained what the issue is to someone, then realized, “oh I could just do this instead, nevermind.”

Taking regular breaks isn’t just about improving your problem-solving skills; it’s also essential for your overall well-being. A healthy work-rest balance contributes to reduced stress, increased job satisfaction, and improved mental health.

By allowing yourself to step away from a frustrating problem, you prioritize self-care. Engaging in enjoyable activities during your break, such as a short workout, a walk, reading a book, a snack, or practicing mindfulness, can significantly reduce stress levels and improve your mood.

In our goal-oriented society, the value of taking breaks when you’re stuck on a problem is often underestimated. However, breaks are not a sign of weakness but a strategic move toward enhanced problem-solving, increased creativity, and improved well-being. When you find yourself at an impasse, don’t hesitate to step away from the problem. A break might be exactly what you need to return with a fresh perspective and the energy to tackle challenges head-on. It’s not completely about how long you work, but how efficiently and effectively you work.

--

--

Thomas Steffen

I am Virtual Reality Developer, UI Systems, and general programmer with a passion for Unity software development.