Taking a breakFor 15 years, I’ve made a decision every fall that I invariably regret in the spring: I take a break from running. It’s a bad habit, but I’ve come up with many good reasons to justify the decision.

  • It’s uncomfortable to breathe hard when the air is cold.
  • Ice makes the footing tricky.
  • I can always find other (i.e., warmer) activities to do.

These reasons always make sense in the fall when I start to see snow on the ground. They aren’t very helpful, however, when I lace up in the spring and try to get my stride back.

There’s a cost to taking a break, and every spring I pay it. Then, I swear I’ll never take a break again…until the snow starts to fall. Does this sound familiar?

In business, we often start projects with the best of intentions. Over time, we come up with excuses to justify taking a break. Why spend more money on marketing if we already have all the customers we need? Why spend more time implementing better customer service if we only have a few customer complaints?

So, we let things lag. We take a break because we assume it’s not a big deal. We can always pick up where we left off in a few months, right?

But as I learn every spring, it’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to pick up exactly where we stopped.

In a way, the moment we stop moving in business we’re falling behind. To be clear, I’m not talking about action for the sake of action, but when we stop doing the things we know matter to our business, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration.

To avoid seeing what it looks like to be at the back of the pack, consider this questions the next time you’re tempted to take a break.

1. Have you set expectations that will make taking a break a surprise for partners and customers?

Few things will hurt your business more than surprising the people who expect something specific from you. If you’ve told customers you’re offering an online course that lasts six months, and you decide you want to take a break after three months, I think you’ve got a good idea of the response.

2. Do you want to take a break because you’re bored or because it’s not working the way you expected?

If it’s the former (“I’m bored.”) that’s on you – and won’t matter to partners or customers. If it’s the latter, then treat it as an opportunity to adapt what you’re doing to something better.

3. Do you plan to jump to something new and shiny?

In theory, if you’ve (1) got a plan in place and (2) it’s working, there’s little reason to believe that something new and shiny will justify chucking what’s working. I understand the temptation, but trading what we know works for something that might work on a whim only tees us up to waste a lot of time and money.

Just like I justify not running during the winter, you can easily justify your answer to each of these questions, and that’s the point. In business, we’ll always be able to justify, even if it’s not logical, what we’re doing. The trick, if you can really call it one, is to force ourselves to think through those justifications and recognize the tradeoffs, instead of assuming that taking a break will cost us very little.