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5 Tips for Taking Quality Time Off

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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.

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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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Published on September 21, 2021

How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

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How Remote Work Affects Your Productivity And Wellbeing (Backed By Data)

The internet is flooded with articles about remote work and its benefits or drawbacks. But in reality, the remote work experience is so subjective that it’s impossible to draw general conclusions and issue one-size-fits-all advice about it. However, one thing that’s universal and rock-solid is data. Data-backed findings and research about remote work productivity give us a clear picture of how our workdays have changed and how work from home affects us—because data doesn’t lie.

In this article, we’ll look at three decisive findings from a recent data study and two survey reports concerning remote work productivity and worker well-being.

1. We Take Less Frequent Breaks

Your home can be a peaceful or a distracting place depending on your living and family conditions. While some of us might find it hard to focus amidst the sounds of our everyday life, other people will tell you that the peace and quiet while working from home (WFH) is a major productivity booster. Then there are those who find it hard to take proper breaks at home and switch off at the end of the workday.

But what does data say about remote work productivity? Do we work more or less in a remote setting?

Let’s take a step back to pre-pandemic times (2014, to be exact) when a time tracking application called DeskTime discovered that 10% of most productive people work for 52 minutes and then take a break for 17 minutes.

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Recently, the same time tracking app repeated that study to reveal working and breaking patterns during the pandemic. They found that remote work has caused an increase in time worked, with the most productive people now working for 112 minutes and breaking for 26 minutes.[1]

Now, this may seem rather innocent at first—so what if we work for extended periods of time as long as we also take longer breaks? But let’s take a closer look at this proportion.

While breaks have become only nine minutes longer, work sprints have more than doubled. That’s nearly two hours of work, meaning that the most hard-working people only take three to four breaks per 8-hour workday. This discovery makes us question if working from home (WFH) really is as good a thing for our well-being as we thought it was. In addition, in the WFH format, breaks are no longer a treat but rather a time to squeeze in a chore or help children with schoolwork.

Online meetings are among the main reasons for less frequent breaks. Pre-pandemic meetings meant going to another room, stretching your legs, and giving your eyes a rest from the computer. In a remote setting, all meetings happen on screen, sometimes back-to-back, which could be one of the main factors explaining the longer work hours recorded.

2. We Face a Higher Risk of Burnout

At first, many were optimistic about remote work’s benefits in terms of work-life balance as we save time on commuting and have more time to spend with family—at least in theory. But for many people, this was quickly counterbalanced by a struggle to separate their work and personal lives. Buffer’s 2021 survey for the State of Remote Work report found that the biggest struggle of remote workers is not being able to unplug, with collaboration difficulties and loneliness sharing second place.[2]

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Buffer’s respondents were also asked if they are working more or less since their shift to remote work, and 45 percent admitted to working more. Forty-two percent said they are working the same amount, while 13 percent responded that they are working less.

Longer work hours and fewer quality breaks can dramatically affect our health, as long-term sitting and computer use can cause eye strain, mental fatigue, and other issues. These, in turn, can lead to more severe consequences, such as burnout and heart disease.

Let’s have a closer look at the connection between burnout and remote work.

McKinsey’s report about the Future of work states that 49% of people say they’re feeling some symptoms of burnout.[3] And that may be an understatement since employees experiencing burnout are less likely to respond to survey requests and may have even left the workforce.

From the viewpoint of the employer, remote workers may seem like they are more productive and working longer hours. However, managers must be aware of the risks associated with increased employee anxiety. Otherwise, the productivity gains won’t be long-lasting. It’s no secret that prolonged anxiety can reduce job satisfaction, decrease work performance, and negatively affect interpersonal relationships with colleagues.[4]

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3. Despite everything, We Love Remote Work

An overwhelming majority—97 percent—of Buffer report’s survey respondents say they would like to continue working remotely to some extent. The two main benefits mentioned by the respondents are the ability to have a flexible schedule and the flexibility to work from anywhere.

McKinsey’s report found that more than half of employees would like their workplace to adopt a more flexible hybrid virtual-working model, with some days of work on-premises and some days working remotely. To be more exact, more than half of employees report that they would like at least three work-from-home days a week once the pandemic is over.

Companies will increasingly be forced to find ways to satisfy these workforce demands while implementing policies to minimize the risks associated with overworking and burnout. Smart companies will embrace this new trend and realize that adopting hybrid models can also be a win for them—for example, for accessing talent in different locations and at a lower cost.

Remote Work: Blessing or Plight?

Understandably, workers worldwide are tempted to keep the good work-life aspects that have come out of the pandemic—professional flexibility, fewer commutes, and extra time with family. But with the once strict boundaries between work and life fading, we must remain cautious. We try to squeeze in house chores during breaks. We do online meetings from the kitchen or the same couch we watch TV shows from, and many of us report difficulties switching off after work.

So, how do we keep our private and professional lives from hopelessly blending together?

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The answer is that we try to replicate the physical and virtual boundaries that come naturally in an office setting. This doesn’t only mean having a dedicated workspace but also tracking your work time and stopping when your working hours are finished. In addition, it means working breaks into your schedule because watercooler chats don’t just naturally happen at home.

If necessary, we need to introduce new rituals that resemble a normal office day—for example, going for a walk around the block in the morning to simulate “arriving at work.” Remote work is here to stay. If we want to enjoy the advantages it offers, then we need to learn how to cope with the personal challenges that come with it.

Learn how to stay productive while working remotely with these tips: How to Work From Home: 10 Tips to Stay Productive

Featured photo credit: Jenny Ueberberg via unsplash.com

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