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When Was the Last Time You Took a Day Off Work to Recharge?

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It’s so easy to fall into the habit of working all the time: skipping lunch, evening and weekend email checks, we never really stop.
Weeks or even months can go past without taking a real break. We’re tired, worn out and feeling disgruntled.

 

When was the last time you took a day off work? I don’t mean the one day in the week when you abandoned your email and did the housework or a list of chores. I mean a day that you took mid-week as annual leave, or a day at the weekend when you did no work.

Working as an academic and running my own coaching business is rewarding but sometimes I forget to stop, especially when I’m learning something new! It’s too easy to look up something on Google, listen to another podcast, or pick up one of the many books on my reading list.

Isn’t it time to reclaim our time? A day off work might be a small step but at least it’s in the right direction.

Take five minutes and consider the benefits – and, trust me, it’s easier to do than you think.

 

As well as benefitting our health and wellbeing, taking a break affects how well we work on our return and enhances our productivity and creativity.

 

Why you get more done when you work less…

Sometimes, we get so immersed in work that it’s hard to keep things in perspective, whether we’re happy or unhappy in our current position. Taking time off is an important part of self-care and helps us avoid burnout.

Set your intention for what you want to get out of the day and spend your time wisely. Imagine how you would like to feel at the end of the day and plan accordingly. Do you want to feel tired but relaxed? Do you want to feel rested, rejuvenated, or inspired? When was the last time you felt that way? What were you doing?

 

Workers who have the chance to switch off get along better with colleagues, and are better able to deal with challenges at work.

 

As well as benefitting our health and wellbeing, taking a break affects how well we work on our return and enhances our productivity and creativity.

According to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, author of “Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less”, “workers who have the chance to get away mentally, switch off, and devote their energies elsewhere, are more productive, have better attitudes, get along better with colleagues, and are better able to deal with challenges at work.”

 

‘Recovery Experiences’

Last Thursday I was standing at the top of a mountain. (I’d like to say we’d made the hike but we slowly wound our way up in the car as part of the Slieve Gullion Scenic Drive.)

We ate our lunch in the sunshine and enjoyed a few hours admiring the views, getting out for a walk, and absorbing the silence.

This is my idea of a perfect day off. How about you? Does it even matter what you do on your day off? Pang suggests that it does.

 

Psychological detachment (not thinking about work on your day off) is a key recovery factor

 

He cites the work of Sabine Sonnentag, a German sociologist, and her colleagues. They’ve been researching “recovery experiences” – how people spend their non-work or leisure time in order to recover from work – for many years.

Sonnentag describes four factors that contribute to your recovery from work-related effort:

  • Psychological detachment (when you’re on your day off, you’re not thinking about work)
  • Relaxation
  • Mastery (when you take on a new and positive challenge)
  • Control (you spend the day exactly how you want to).

Taking my example of going for a drive, a walk and eating lunch outdoors, it ticked three of these four boxes for recovery from work. I spent the day exactly as I wanted to (control), I wasn’t thinking about work (psychological detachment; helped by having no mobile phone signal!), and there were certainly elements of relaxation.

 

Tips for enjoying your day off work

  1. Schedule your day off in your calendar, set your out-of-office and keep that date free.
  2. Plan your day off work, including what you’re going to do and where. Have fun: go on an adventure, try something new!
  3. Take photos to remember the day by and to motivate you to do it again sometime soon.
  4. Set clear boundaries so that you won’t be disturbed during your day off. (Yes, that includes turning off notifications for email and social media on your mobile phone).
  5. Consider a day off in nature – go to the seaside or take a picnic to one of the many walking trails in Ireland – it’s good for the soul as well as your health and wellbeing.

 

Take action

Pull up your calendar right now and schedule a day off in the next 2 to 4 weeks. I understand that this will be more or less difficult depending on your responsibilities. Of course, there’s nothing to say you can’t bring your family along for the ride.

Whether you’re going solo or with family or friends, check out www.familyfun.ie or www.discoverireland.ie for ideas. Half the fun is in the planning!

 

Want to switch up your work/life balance as part of a mid-career change? Nicola is running a free Mid-Career Change Workshop in Dublin later this month. You can register here.

About the Author

Nicola Porter

Nicola Porter, PhD, is a mid-career coach for smart, capable professionals who are struggling to take stock of their career and figure out their next step.

Nicola combines everything she knows and loves about psychology with highly effective coaching tools and techniques to help you create a better quality of working life so that you can enjoy more success, confidence and satisfaction in your work – in a totally doable way.

Having masterminded her own mid-career change to create a more satisfying and flexible working life, Nicola is keen to share what works to help you do the same.

Meet Nicola and take your first step towards creating a more meaningful, enjoyable career at www.coachd.ie.

 

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