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This former McDonald’s slogan serves as our coaching tip, directed to you although equally valid for your employees.

What happens when a tractor or a planter goes long hours without maintenance?  The answer, of course, is that performance declines and repairs increase.

Research and experience show that long stretches without “maintenance’ is also damaging, perhaps even more so, to we humans.  Research shows that productivity often declines enough that more work is done in the same time period when a break is taken.  The increased productivity more than covers the time taken for the break.

The difference between machines and humans lies in the form of the decreased productivity.  Of course, we humans get physically tired; however, the greater negative impact of prolonged periods of work stems from the strain it puts on our emotions.  We become stressed, frustrated, quick-tempered, even angry without opportunities to take a break.  You deserve a break today!

Let me encourage you to take three types of breaks:

  • Daily.  Every one of us needs to find something or sometime each day that allows us to unwind and refresh.  It could be a workout, a meal with family, a walk, a time alone, or an activity with loved ones.  You need to determine your “you need a break today” activity and stick to it.
  • After hectic periods.  Machinery requires maintenance and repair, but does not need a recovery period after long hours of use.  We humans do!  After periods of long hours and/or intense efforts, human beings need time to recover physically and especially emotionally.  When you finish planting or harvesting or a busy period in the dairy, take an unplanned time off and/or just allow yourself to slow down.
  • Vacations.  Vacations are becoming less frequent and technology allows us to stay in touch when we are on vacation.  These are terrible developments!  Take a real vacation!  I think you will be surprised at the positive impacts you will see and feel.

I have no doubt that your course is absolutely dependent on you as its leader!  That does not mean that you always have to be available – on call.   In fact, always being on call is the opposite of leadership.  You have become a slave to your farm, not its leader.

You deserve a break today!

Dr. Bob Milligan is Senior Consultant, Dairy Strategies, LLC and Professor Emeritus, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University.  This article first appeared in Dr. Milligan’s e-newsletter LearningEdge Monthly, June 2015.  To subscribe to the e-newsletter or reach Dr. Bob, email or call 651 647-0495.