Sometimes You Have to Stop

Just one more paragraph, you tell yourself.

Sometimes You Have to Stop
Photo by Kai Pilger / Unsplash

The sun has gone down. The dog is hungry. So are you, but you don’t notice. You’ve lost all concept of time because you’re completely focused on what you’re doing. Just one more paragraph, you tell yourself. Another ten minutes.

Does this sound familiar?

When we’re “in the zone”, it’s hard to focus on anything else. This happens often with passion projects, like writing or editing. It’s not a bad thing — at first.

When in the zone, we can produce some of our best work. The problems come when our projects consume us. Forgetting to eat. Losing sleep. Inability to focus on things around us. These are signs it’s time to stop. Not forever, just long enough to reset our brain.

When working a muscle group, you stretch and then you strengthen. Then you rest. You can’t work the same muscle group day in and day out without injury. Resting is where the growth occurs.

The brain is a muscle. It needs rest to grow.

I’m working on a book. Well, a book-like thing. It’s nowhere near complete, or even where I can share details, but it’s a project consuming an abnormal amount of my brain power. It’s exciting and I want to finish. But even if I could devote time every day, I’d still be months away from completion.

I’m halfway through the first draft and now is a good time to put the project on the shelf. Not forever, but for a little while. This will provide time to let ideas marinate and, more importantly, give my mind time to focus on other things.

When I return to the project, I’ll see it with rested eyes. My brain will be ready to stretch again.

Whether you’re working on a single story or a larger project, give yourself permission to stop. Take a break, practice yoga, wander through the park. Give your brain something else to focus on.

Rest your brain so it can grow. Your projects will thank you.

A version of this article also appeared on Medium.