Why You Should Consider Stepping Back Before Moving Forward

Forest Steps

by Ryan

What would happen if you took a step back from your current life? If you just observed and removed yourself from the chaos would your perspective change? Well, you’d probably be on vacation ;), but seriously, if you could take a month to step back, unplug all your electronics and reflect on what it is you’re doing, what would happen? Stepping back to look at the big picture and clear your thoughts can actually be one of the best ways to make sure you’re on the right path and continue to move forward.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.”
-Robert Frost-

30 days 30 nights challenge remains on the back burner (It’ll be restarted in the next few days and into next month) and I a lost quite a bit of steam, mostly by conscious choice and physically stepping away. I could feel myself getting a bit burned out and I had friends stay with me a little over a week so I took a step back from the blog. Stepping back allowed me to gain a broader perspective of what I was doing, and what life was like again without spending hours in front of my computer. It also showed me what happens in my absence… life goes on.

What happens in a world without you?

The world won’t stop turning the moment you take a break from it. Traffic will still keep flowing, people will still have babies, and the same TV shows will be on every night. Admit it, it probably makes you a bit sad to think like this because you realize that your life in the big scheme of things is only one in seven billion. Each of us do make a difference, but in relative terms, a tiny one. Since we touch a select few people in our lives and aren’t missed by the majority this can give you incentive to do whatever you’d like because in reality the world will still keep going on. If you quit your job, someone will replace it. If you sell your business, the new owner will take care of it. If you end a relationship, it there may be new ones to take it’s place. If you embarrass yourself, people will forget. If you don’t blog for a week, people will also forget 😉

Stepping back for a week, month, or even year will not alter the fate of the world dramatically, but it could alter your perspective dramatically. In several careers they call this a sabbatical in which the professional takes a significant chunk of time off to recharge their batteries. I think having one sabbatical is not enough and prefer the ideas of Tim Ferris with mini retirements of several months throughout your working life. Considering the pace of life we currently live, stress and burnout happens A LOT, so stepping back should be part of the routine.

Why would you want to take a break?

To recharge, to clarify why you’ve been working so hard, and to clear your mind. When you talk to an employer about why you took that year off to buy your around the world ticket or enjoy the little things in life for a year you can simply say “I took that year for myself to build my character and become a more well rounded person.” If that person is too short sighted to understand, would you really want them as your boss anyways?

Stepping back will also give you an opportunity to discover whether or not you truly enjoy what you’re doing. Even if you’re following your passion you could probably use a break from it from time to time. However, if it’s something you really enjoy you’ll be itching to get back at it withing a relatively short period of time. That’s how I felt about blogging. A week or so was enough time to clear my head and now I’m ready to consistently blog again for another chunk of time. Without the break I would’ve been less motivated to continue.

Why online businesses may be one of the better choices to take a break from.

As a side note I reconfirmed why I love online as a business platform since a lot of the processes you use online can be automated. Posts can be scheduled, auto responders still work, traffic still comes, and backlinks remain (or even grow while you’re gone). While I took my break people still followed me on twitter, I received several guest posts, and traffic remained steady even though I probably put in less than 10 hours over a 10 day period. You probably won’t grow your online presence much if you’re gone, but you may only need to put in minimal effort for it to remain at it current level, primarily because of its established backlinks and following.

Don’t be afraid of stepping back

If you feel a bit burned out with work or even dealing with your finances it won’t come crashing down if you step back for a week, or even a month. Take some time to inhale, let your subconscious mind work and rekindle your passion by removing yourself from the situation completely.

How often do you take a break from work or commitments?

Do you think stepping back is necessary to stick with something over the long haul?

Image from atoach

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Simple in France March 24, 2010 at 2:23 am

Stepping back by heading into nature (and out of reach of electronic devices) is a great thing. In some ways, I suppose that you might feel pressured to keep up a blog during a trip like that but I don’t see why. You’re right, it’s probably easier to take time off from blogging than from many other things! At any rate, it’s always worth taking time off–especially when burnt out.

By the way, that trail in the photo looks really familiar. Where is that? Reminds me of a hike I did with my husband when we were in the islands but I can’t remember where!

scottbarrononline March 24, 2010 at 5:20 am

I would also like to add that online business owners suffer a lack of separation from our work. The ability to run our business from our homes or remotely allows us to work more hours; which go unnoticed. We no longer have a schedule based on “Hours of Operation”, nor is it necessary to “drive” to the office. All we need to run our business is within reach. Working a 16 hour day from home is blurred because we can work while cooking dinner, watching TV, raising the kids, etc. It doesn’t seem like work; but it is.

My family views this as “playing”. If I were to step back, they would say, “From what?”
.-= scottbarrononline´s last blog ..ONE campaign =-.

Moon Hussain March 24, 2010 at 2:55 am

This reminds of the time (over 10 years ago) when I went overseas for three weeks (I didn’t want to take that trip!) After I got back, I realized that everyone/everything was just in motion. It was pretty weird because the same songs were playing but my friends were interacting without me just fine. What a blow to the ego, haha!

With online businesses, it’s easy to burn out, after all, it’s not all in a neat little package. It is absolutely worth it to step back, take a break, and reflect on what you’re trying to accomplish. The world won’t stop 😉
.-= Moon Hussain´s last blog ..Are You Embarrassed Of Saying “Passive Income” Out Loud? =-.

Investing Newbie March 24, 2010 at 6:54 am

I take a break every so often during the day because my brain literally shuts down and refuses to do anything. If I don’t step away from work, I’ll run the risk of presenting work of a lower quality to my superiors, and that’s never good. Mini breaks during the day, as well as taking full advantage of your weekend, is really important for the mind and the body.

I do think stepping back is necessary, but maybe not in the form of completely removing oneself. Definitely trying something new, something different, while not really changing too much (such as working in retail rather than behind a desk) is sufficient. But maybe that’s just the worker bee in me buzzing away…
.-= Investing Newbie´s last blog ..33 Going on 34 =-.

LeanLifeCoach March 24, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Ever since I read 4-hour a couple years ago I’ve been trying to come to terms with these concepts. Frankly, I love working. When the wife and kids want to go hang at the beach with the in-laws, I’d rather teach a class, help a customer, build a dresser, a website or read a book.

Then again, I guess I am in the minority of people that truly love their job.
.-= LeanLifeCoach´s last blog ..Ten Motivational Tips To Achieve Your Personal Finance Objectives =-.

Little House March 24, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Good point. I’ve been feeling a little pressured this week; mid-term paper, wrapping up an online class, parent/teacher conferences, whew! I probably need to step back a bit and take a few days off. I just feel so guilty when I do. I know some of my readers will still visit my blog, but I am working so hard increasing my readership I feel like I just can’t do it! Maybe next week, since I’m on spring break, I can take a couple days to regroup.

Thanks for reminding me life goes on without, me!
.-= Little House´s last blog ..Fun Math Facts =-.

Samurai March 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Ryan, you’re too young to think about stepping back and taking a break! 🙂

Give it a good 5 years and revisit at 27-28 to figure out where you want to go, and where you’ve come from…. and then give it a real good 2-3 year push b/c at 30, you’ll REALLY start thinking about what you’ve done with your life and whether you need to reconsider, or take this break you are talking about.

I hope you really aren’t thinking about stepping back and taking a break too soon.


.-= Samurai´s last blog ..The Mental To Physical Connection For A Healthier Lifestyle =-.

Derek Clark March 24, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Great post. I’ve had the same thing happen with one of my blogs before. After I got married I just didn’t have the time to keep up with, and I was burned out up to that point anyways. I didn’t completely abandon it, but I went from posting 5 times a week to once every 2 weeks for a few months.

Traffic slowed down but it was far from stopping. I still had plenty of links, and my rankings in google stayed pretty much the same. And almost 0 subscribers left. I’ve since come back to it, and have more traffic and subscribers than ever in a short amount of time.
.-= Derek Clark´s last blog ..Quick and Easy Way to Simplify Your Budget =-.

The Simple Machine March 24, 2010 at 7:35 pm

It is very true how the world keeps moving even without you.
Last week one of my very close collegues quit the job because our manager is very difficult person to deal with.

He left writing a letter to HR, which has had a tiny impact in improving our lives at work as I am sure the manager had a chat with HR after the incident. However, my colleague with a baby arriving in 8 weeks had to quit his job.

The thing is business went on as usual. I had to take over his reports, and the reports got delivered this week.

So perfect example of how things go on without you (one way or another).

The image reminds me of the Grouse Grind I did last sept in Vancouver.

The Simple Machine March 24, 2010 at 7:36 pm

It is very true how the world keeps moving even without you.
Last week one of my very close collegues quit the job because our manager is very difficult person to deal with.

He left writing a letter to HR, which has had a tiny impact in improving our lives at work as I am sure the manager had a chat with HR after the incident. However, my colleague with a baby arriving in 8 weeks had to quit his job.

The thing is business went on as usual. I had to take over his reports, and the reports got delivered this week.

So perfect example of how things go on without you (one way or another).

The image reminds me of the Grouse Grind I did last sept in Vancouver.
.-= The Simple Machine´s last blog ..Quick ways to start Saving Money this week. =-.

Austin March 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I think mini-breaks are healthy. You realize the world won’t end if you only post 3 times this week, instead of your normal 4.

It gives you a chance to evaluate your work and consider change.

I suggest taking breaks from certain aspects of work. For example, as winter comes to a close, I’ve felt a little blog burn out. One of my goals for 2010 is to post 3 times a week. I made sure to get posts up for the week, but took a Twitter/comment/email break instead. I gave myself a lot of time, but still pushed forward in the most important part of my work.
.-= Austin´s last blog ..Lending Club Update – 5 Months Later =-.

Valentina March 25, 2010 at 4:50 am

Sometimes if you don’t occasionally step voluntarily, circumstance will make you as I learned earlier this week! Lost the site – vanished, poof! just like that. Took the day off – away from anything internet, even went walking and lunching with total non IM friends. End of day – problem rectified 🙂
.-= Valentina´s last blog ..Life, Timing & Love all live In the Land of Internet Marketing =-.

Kiesha @ WeBlogBetter March 25, 2010 at 5:47 am

There are times when a break is absolutely necessary – you can’t expect to keep going with taking at least a few days to just breathe. I think you risk losing your mind if you don’t.
A break is like sleep, you need it in order to recharge so that you can come back even stronger than before.
I won’t stop following you if you disappear for a few more days…don’t worry! 🙂
.-= Kiesha @ WeBlogBetter´s last blog ..A Step-by-step guide to guest posting =-.

harvestwages March 25, 2010 at 9:13 am

Hey Ryan,were you on leave?
I feel like the world needs me. The world without me, does it matter? may be not. But i think in the same way my friends need me, the world too needs me.
.-= harvestwages´s last blog ..5 traps that seduces great minds =-.

Daniel Johnston March 25, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I agree that for an online business, taking a step back can be a wonderful thing.

I had one blog that I took two days away from. By the time I came back, I realized my blog really wasn’t all that valuable, and I had an idea for a new website. Stepping back was definitely a smart move.

However, some people step away for a prolonged period of time, which is clearly not the correct strategy for a blog because you’re readers will think you’ve abandoned them and leave. However, I love the strategy of scheduling posts and using auto responders and that to take a break.

As for work, I would never want to just completely step out and take a fresh perspective. I play chess professionally, and must study a few hours every day to keep in shape. Once, I got sick for a week and it set me back a lot. I don’t want to get set that far back.

I also do other things professionally. Some of those I would be willing to take a break from as it really wouldn’t make a big difference, some not. However, I strongly oppose to quitting your job now in an economy like this. Even taking a break is dangerous, because they may realize they can do without you while you’re gone.

But on things that you can afford to step down from, yes, I agree that taking a small break and getting a new perspective is one of the best things you can do, as a new perspective can be very valuable.

Monevator March 26, 2010 at 2:07 am

On the subject of ‘life going on’, I expect this will sound morbid to a lot of readers, but sometimes I imagine I’m very old in hospital and near death.

Outside the kids are playing and dating and falling in love, people are rushing to work (perhaps in personal helicopters by then, or maybe personal submarines if the global warming guys are right) and life is going on without me.

Everything will pass, and it can help to remember that is the biggest perspective of all.

Congrats on a thoughtful post Ryan. 🙂
.-= Monevator´s last blog ..Personal time management for fun and profit =-.

alberta @ cashdoc July 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Yes the world will continue to revolve even without you. And when you focus yourself too much on your work, your family’s world will continue to revolve without you as well. I used to work so hard to earn money for them. I worked even on weekends just to meet my schedule but I guess that was just normal for a writer to do. When an idea comes and you don’t write it down it will not come back easily. I was oblivious to my family for a while and content having a steady source of income. But when my spouse snapped and we had a fight, my work went out the window- it was like i just couldn’t focus. From then on I took weekend breaks and had fun with my kid. Wealth building is useless when you lose your family in the process.

Roman Soluk October 3, 2010 at 12:59 am

Very interesting idea you put here. It makes me think of it a bit. Thanks a lot for sharing this, Ryan!

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