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5 Tips for Taking Quality Time Off

5 Tips for Taking Quality Time Off

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

More by this author

Hannah Braime

Hannah is a coach who believes the world is a richer place when we have the courage to be fully self-expressed.

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Last Updated on September 17, 2020

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

5 Practical Ways to Get Over a Mental Block

There’s nothing quite like a state of “flow” when you’re working. The rare moments when your inspiration aligns with your motivation likely lead to some of your most creative work. Plus, it feels great to actually check a task or project off the list so you can move on to the next thing. Meanwhile, a mental block — its opposite — can cause work to feel laborious and uninspired. Forget creativity when you have a mental block — it makes it difficult even to start working on what you need to do.

A mental block can manifest in several ways. Perhaps your imposter syndrome is squelching your creative ideas, for instance, or you’re overwhelmed by the breadth of a project and its impending deadline. Maybe you’re just tired or stressed.

Either way, having a mental block feels like being trapped in your own head, and it can seriously dampen your ability to think outside the box. The problem is, you’re so locked into your own perspective that you don’t see more innovative approaches to your problems.[1]

Luckily, jumping over these mental hurdles is simpler than you think. You just need the right strategies to get your flow back.

Try these five practical ways to overcome a mental block.

1. Break Your Project Down

A few years ago, I was working on changing a company product that I believed would hugely benefit our customers. Sounds great, right?

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As inspired as I was to make people’s lives easier, though, the sheer magnitude of the task at hand felt overwhelming. Every morning, I cracked open my laptop to work and felt totally paralyzed. I loved the idea, yes, but actualizing it felt risky. What if it didn’t turn out the way I pictured in my mind? More importantly, where would I even begin?

A former colleague gave me great advice over coffee:

Change how you think. Start by breaking the big project down into small tasks.

When a major project overwhelms you, you only see the entire forest instead of the individual trees. And as you stare it down, you start to feel discouraged by your own lack of progress, thus slowing you down further.

Breaking down a massive task into smaller chunks makes the work feel more manageable. You’ll have multiple clear places to start and end with, which will lend a motivating sense of productivity and mastery to your process. Learn more about it here: The Motivation Flowchart: The Mental Process of Successful People

Think of it as accumulating small wins. When you realize you’re more capable than you have once thought, you’ll develop the momentum and confidence needed to get your big job done little by little.[2]

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2. Change Up Your Scenery

Of course, there’s a time and place for sitting down to get things done. But if you’re experiencing a mental block, switching up your surroundings can make a big difference in your output.

Have you ever noticed how your environment directly impacts your performance and mood?

Your brain associates your physical surroundings with certain feelings and activities. So, if you feel mentally stuck, your mind may need some new sensory stimuli.

During this time in your life, it may not be possible to set up shop at a cafe or move from your cubicle to a conference room, so you may need to think outside the box. If you’re working remotely in a home office, try going to your dining table or couch. If the weather cooperates, sit outside for a bit with your computer or take a walk around the block.

You can also simply rearrange your workspace. Not sure where to begin? Try decluttering. Some studies show that an organized desk enhances productivity.[3]

The point is to stimulate your brain with new sounds and sights. You may find a much-needed dose of inspiration when you work while breathing in the fresh air, listening to city sounds, or staying in the comfort of your own living space.

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3. Do an Unrelated Activity

When it comes to productivity, a bit of distraction isn’t always a bad thing. That’s especially true if your chosen distraction helps you get things done in the long run.

Have you realized how your most creative thoughts tend to bubble up when you’re, say, lying in bed or taking a shower? In their research of the “incubation period,” scientists have discovered that people’s best ideas seem to surface when they aren’t actively trying to solve a problem.[4]

In a 2010 study, participants needed to look for a roommate or new employee based on the profiles that the researchers gave. The people who had a brief “incubation period” — in this case, working on an anagram — consistently made better choices than those who spent more time weighing their options.

If you can’t seem to prime your brain for a project, try doing something completely unrelated to work, such as washing your dishes, working out, or calling a friend. Some experts say finding another low-stake project to work on can help jump-start the creative part of your brain and activate your flow.[5]

The key is to allow your unconscious mind to do its best work: eliciting the new knowledge your conscious mind may be ignoring or suppressing.[6]

4. Be Physical

Feeling antsy? When your mind won’t seem to settle into a state of flow, it may help to swap out your mental activity for a physical one and see how it impacts your perspective.

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While any physical activity is beneficial for your body — and getting up to move can serve as a helpful form of distraction — certain forms of exercise can more directly impact the mind. To be specific, relaxing, flow-based exercises like dance, yoga, or tai chi can create a gentle sense of momentum in your body, which can prime your brain for the same state.

Stress-reducing activities may also be necessary. Meditating or taking slow, deep breaths will also calm your nervous system if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Evidence shows that the logical, creative part of your brain essentially shuts off when you’re stressed.[7]

On the flip side, when your mind and body are relaxed, you can think more clearly, be more creative, and focus for longer periods — all of which will help you overcome a mental block.

5. Don’t Force It

It can be frustrating to fight against your own mind. If your mental block won’t go away after some effort, it may be time to take a break. Forcing creative thoughts only adds to your stress levels, which in turn inhibits your ability to think creatively. And if you sit and stare at a project for too long, you’ll not only waste valuable time but also begin to associate this specific work with frustration and produce work you’re not proud of.

“I know that forcing something is not going to create anything beyond mediocre, so I step aside and work on a different project until it hits me,” the artist Ben Skinner said about his creative process.[8]

If your work isn’t time-sensitive, then it may make sense to step away for a while to focus on something else, be it an administrative task that requires less creativity or a project that you feel motivated to work on.

When the time is right, you’ll find your way back to the original task with a fresh, creative perspective (hopefully).

More on Getting Rid of a Mental Block

Featured photo credit: Jonas Leupe via unsplash.com

Reference

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