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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.

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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 July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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