10 August 2016

Feel the Guilt But Take Time Off Anyway

Let Go Of Guilt and Take Time For Yourself to Replenish

Feel the Guilt But Take Time Off Anyway

Taking some time off the treadmill, whether it’s a week’s vacation, a day off, or an hour to yourself, makes a lot of people feel guilty. We live in a culture of rampant busy-ness, and so many people have significantly more on their plates than is actually do-able. Taking any time off can seem irresponsible, like you’re letting down the team. But feeling guilt doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong. In this case, you’re just out of your comfort zone.

The reality is you need the down time in order to be as productive as you can be. Just like in music, where the rests are as important as the notes, so it is in a professional’s life. Down time enhances your productivity. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s true. You certainly know that the opposite is true: when you’re exhausted and burnt out, you’re not the best you can be, creatively or productivity-wise.

There is great restorative value in allowing yourself some free and clear time off. It will reduce your stress level and lighten your heart. Here are three recommendations for powerful actions you can take, starting immediately:

  • Once a month, take a half day to yourself, with no “results” required: spend the time however you really feel like spending it. If this is truly impossible, start with 2 hours or even 1 hour — whatever you can pull off.
  • One day a month, allow yourself to wake up on your own, without an alarm. If you have young children or pets who need early morning attention, find someone else to take your place that one morning.
  • Every week, allow yourself at least one hour, somewhere during that week, when you are NOT RUSHING, when there is no time pressure on you.

When you practice these small “time-outs” from your usual pressured existence, you will probably feel guilty for not accomplishing something or for not leveraging your time to the max. That guilt will be a good sign — it will mean you are really taking some time out. And that’s a good thing for you.

Try at least one of these recommendations in the next 30 days. It’s a way to have a micro-vacation in the midst of a busy time. You will more than make up for it when you get back into busy mode: you will have replenished some of your personal reserves and will have more of you to bring to your work.


28 May 2014

Build Downtime Into Your Vacation

When is a vacation not a vacation? The question may sound like a philosophical conundrum, but for a lot of us, the answer is easy. A vacation isn’t a vacation when it’s so over-scheduled that you don’t return to work feeling refreshed: you feel exhausted, or maybe even more stressed than before you left.

The problem is surprisingly common. One in 10 people say they “can never relax” when they take time off, according to the 2013 Vacation Deprivation survey* by the online travel company Expedia.com. And it’s a safe bet that a lot of those who can relax don’t do it as often as they’d like. Why else would so many people joke, after taking a week or two off,  “I need a vacation to recover from my vacation”?

So if you’re making summer plans, it’s a good idea to build some downtime into your time off, whether you hope to take a trip or stay home and tackle a big project like renovating a room. Research has found that making time for relaxation on vacation does more than help to ease pent-up job-related stresses. It can also promote physical and emotional well-being and, by allowing you to pull back from your day-to-day pressures and see them in a new light, foster creativity.

“Relaxing” doesn’t mean that you have to spend your entire vacation swinging in a hammock or drinking piña coladas on a beach at sunset. It just means making sure you don’t spend all of your time rushing from one activity to the next — that you have some open, unstructured time when you can engage in pursuits that will recharge you mentally and physically, whether you prefer creative pastimes like writing and painting or just taking leisurely walks in beautiful scenery.

An easy way to avoid over-scheduling your vacation is to build some down time into every day. If you plan a morning of shopping or sightseeing, allow for a restorative hour or two in the afternoon when you can read, write in a journal, or listen to music you’ve downloaded to a cell phone.  If you’ll be spending a day with a lot friends or relatives at a reunion, try to have a quiet evening at home or at your hotel that allows you to do yoga, go for a long walk after dinner, or take a relaxing bath. And don’t feel guilty about making time for yourself. As former marriage counselor Jackie Coleman and author John Coleman wrote on the HBR Blog Network:

“Just as it’s healthy to focus at work — ignoring Facebook and personal email — it’s essential to occasionally leave work behind and make space for life.”

Make sure your vacation is really a vacation.  You may be surprised by the traction a vacation with downtime can give you.  But you won’t see it til you’re back. 

*A hyperlink won’t work here because the survey results are a pdf, but you can see the survey if you paste this link into your browser: http://bit.ly/OneinTen.