The Import of Taking Breaks

Q: Lately, I can barely find time to hear myself think. I see a constant stream of actions I need to accomplish daily, and I sometimes feel like a robot, with no time to actually reflect on anything going on around me. I’m not disorganized, and I’m quite focused on what I’m doing, but there does not seem to be enough time in the day and I feel my children are losing out.

I guess it’s a combination of emotional and ruchniyus needs that must somehow be met. And each time of the year has its own challenges — now, it’s getting children ready for camp and registering for school next year. The list goes on and on. I know I’m doing the best I can for my children, but I feel guilty that I am not doing enough.

A: Using time wisely is truly a balancing act for any thinking person. In the long run, activities that help us strengthen ourselves for better focus will make us better parents. However, as you express the sentiments of so many of us — time seems to run away ever so quickly. And yet, creating time for our own individual interests is necessary to add quality to our lives.

Taking breaks in our daily schedules is a universal human need. Even corporations, which desire to elicit maximum productivity from their employees, see the need for this. Why else would they allow workers to take coffee breaks throughout the day if not that such brief respites, in moderation, are advantageous to the company’s bottom line?

Human beings need time away from their daily schedules to be able to return with new energy, and space for their brains to conceive of new ideas. This time may be utilized for practicing a musical instrument, making time to engage in physical exercise, enrolling in an art class or painting, consistently writing in a journal, going to an inspiring shiur or learning over the phone with someone whose relationship is meaningful to you. All the above activities add quality to a weekly schedule crammed with tasks that must be accomplished.

Learning that is geared towards a goal usually brings the most satisfaction. Starting a sefer with hopes of finishing it in its entirety is usually a formula for frustration. It is much more realistic to concentrate on select chapters of a sefer that you and your learning partner find to be of particular interest, making sure to allow ample time to finish within a certain time period. Limited goals usually bring the best results because they are achievable; with each completion comes an exhilarating sense of satisfaction and a better sense of self, adding positive reinforcement to future learning efforts.

Though making time when there is no time may initially seem difficult, it becomes possible when one knows how to prioritize. Don’t we make time for unexpected doctor’s visits with our children, and spontaneous l’chaims (that are not always local)? But perhaps attending a chasunah from beginning to end cannot always be a given for us…

To carve out time for such purposes on a weekly (or, for some, daily) basis calls for great discipline. Then again, no masterpiece was every created without discipline and diligence; how much more so when the masterpiece is one’s own neshamah! The emotional calm often gained from truly hearing oneself and obtaining some objectivity is a desired end unto itself. Often, this allows a clarity of vision which might otherwise not surface in our day-to-day schedules.

The advantages of creating time for your individual interests can only enhance your daily avodas Hashem and care of your children. Each moment of added menuchas hanefesh helps us focus on making the correct decisions regarding both the major and minor decisions of life.