The busier we get and the more commitments we have, the harder it can become to take quality time off. We’ll go into the weekend or our much longed-for vacation iPhone in hand and laptop at the readyjust in case we need to deal with any emergencies. Time off becomes “time to get all those little tasks that keep slipping down the list done and dusted”, instead of the relaxation break it’s supposed to be.

When it comes to taking quality time off, the problem doesn’t lie so much what we have to do, but with ourselves and our mindset. The more we become used to spending our evenings, weekends and vacations with our minds still at work, the harder it becomes to truly separate out work from personal time and take quality time off.

Taking regular breaks to switch off, relax and recharge is an important part of self-care. It helps us return to our everyday lives with renewed energy, a shifted perspective and a greater capacity to be the vest version of ourselves we can be.

Here are five tips you can use to take quality time off that serves you:

1. Set an intention: what do you want to get out of your time off?

Knowing what you want from your time off means you are more likely to get it. If you can identify the needs that you want to meet beforehand, you are far more likely to be able to meet those needs (and therefore take quality time off), than if you’re unaware of what you want to get out of your break.

As well as focusing on needs, your intention might revolve around an activity or experience. For example, if you have been feeling stressed about the clutter in your home, you might think about using this weekend to meet your need for cleanliness and order by clearing out the living room. When you have that kind of intention in mind, you avoid spending your time off on autopilot, doing things that aren’t really meeting your current needs.

2. Set Boundaries

Quality time off means real time off, not time off spent doing laundry, cooking meals or picking the kids up from here and there (not unless these activities fit in with your current needs, anyway). To take quality time off, you might have to be assertive and set some boundaries around needing a certain amount of time to yourself. This might mean asking your partner to weigh in on household chores, saying “No” to a work-related request, or even hiring a babysitter for a couple of hours.

If you’re not used to walling your time in this way, doing so can feel selfish. Remember, however, that you can only give to others what you give to yourself. Once you’ve taken the time to meet your own needs, you’ll be in a much better position to be the best employee, partner, friend, mother, and so on, that you can be.

3. Take a digital sabbatical

Just as you might have to set boundaries with people, taking quality time off might involve setting boundaries with the gadgets in your life too. Smartphones, laptops and tablets are all gifts of our day and age, but they also make it far harder to disconnect. I’m the first person to admit that when faced with a queue, a journey or a quiet moment, I’ll whip out my iPhone and start aimlessly checking my mail, Facebook and other apps just to keep myself entertained.

When we’re distracting ourselves with the internet, TV, games or any other features of modern technology, we’re not taking quality time off: we’re distracting ourselves. Switch it off, leave it at home, and, most of all, be conscious of how you’re spending your time.

4. Keep a list of activities

Make a list of activities you know will recharge and rejuvenate you ahead of time. Then, when it’s time to take a break, you have a pre-prepared variety of activities to choose from. This helps you avoid the temptation to veg out in front of the TV, or think that since you’re not sure what else to do, you might as well go to the grocery store after all.

As you create your activities list, find a combination of activities that include relaxation and stimulation, as we’ll talk about next.

5. Create a balance

Taking quality time off doesn’t necessarily mean lazing around. If this is the default you revert to when you’re not sure how else to spend your time, create a balance between your time off activities.

Make sure you connect with friends and family, and make time to get moving too. Even when we feel exhausted, getting out and getting active can actually help recharge our batteries more than sitting around at home, which can perpetuate the feeling of exhaustion. Enjoy a long, gentle walk, or take yourself to a yoga class—after all, taking time off is as much about caring for your body as it is for your mind.

What are your tips for taking quality time off? Leave a comment and let us know.

RELATED: 12 Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Free Time

Featured photo credit: Sheep resting on road in Norway via Shutterstock

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