If you think like me then taking time off means squandering opportunities, losing business or wasting money; and chances are pretty good that your boss thinks the same way. But, if it’s done right, taking time off can actually provide more energy, add a new perspective to old situations and increase effectiveness.
If you’re one of those people who don’t take all the time off you need, you’re not alone.
According to the U.S. Travel Association’s Project Time Off study, “State of American Vacation 2018,” more than half of Americans are still not using all the vacation time they earn, a figure virtually unchanged for the previous few years and sharply higher than a decade ago.
Why Do We Need Breaks?
Taking breaks allows you to:
- Avoid burnout
- Find a fresh perspective
- Create space to generate new ideas
- Give yourself a pat on the back with a reward
- Improve your mental health
How to Give Yourself a Break
Since it can be a challenge to take time off, here are 10 strategies that can help:
- Delegate. People are willing to help you achieve your respite from work. If you’re an employee, coworkers can cover your back — just make sure to give them and your boss enough notice. If you are an entrepreneur you likely have a support team in place to temporarily hand the reins.
- Plan ahead. What stops many people from taking a break is money (or, more accurately, the lack of it). It’s difficult to enjoy time off when you’re worried about every nickel. This is why planning is critical. Set up an automatic withdrawal from your salary that goes directly into a high-interest savings account. It may surprise you how little you miss that money every month.
- Go local. No money? The best things in life are free and often in your own back yard. Try a “staycation”: vacation at home. Visit a local farmers market, have a picnic, read your favorite author or swing in a hammock. The key here is to set boundaries around work (a closed door to your home office is an amazingly easy boundary to respect), so that you aren’t tempted to fire up the computer.
- Work ahead. Working a couple of extra hours each week leading up to taking your break can provide a head start upon your return.
- Organize. Organizing and de-cluttering the office space is a great idea. There’s nothing more discouraging than returning from your relaxing break to find a cluttered mess.
- Use your points. Use points accumulated on your credit card or rewards program to reward yourself “free” of charge.
- Let go. It can be tough to hear, but it’s true — most of us are not indispensable. Accepting that fact can actually be liberating and lift a weight off weary, overburdened shoulders.
- Use a calendar. Marking off long weekends, holidays and vacation weeks for the entire year creates a road map of time off and work.
- Plan for and take sick days. If you are your own boss, you may recall the “good ole” days of calling in sick (even if you weren’t). Now that you’re the boss, you never get sick, right? Of course you do. So plan for it. Decide how many sick days to give yourself and then record them, and keep track of them, on your calendar. That way you’re more likely to give yourself permission to take a break when you need it. Also, whether you are the boss or an employee, if you’re feeling under the weather, you are probably better off taking a sick day and staying in bed than pushing through when you’re not at your best.
- Don’t rush it. Rushing off to the airport right out of the office is asking for stress. Finishing up that last bit of work before getting into rush-hour traffic shoots up anxiety levels when you should be winding down.
Whether you run a multimillion-dollar company or work for one, everyone needs regular breaks. Not taking time off is like not taking time to sleep—willpower and adrenaline only take you so far. There really is no excuse for not taking a break. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to help increase your value.
Feeling like you need some work/life balance and not sure how to go about it? Click the button “SCHEDULE A CONSULTATION” at the top of this page and let’s chat!
We’ve all put things off. I’ve done it, your boss has done it, and you’re probably doing it right now. No one is a stranger to procrastination.
And unfortunately, we also know from experience that it’s stressful, detrimental to progress, and overall, a nasty habit to fall into. Fortunately, procrastination has a simple cure…
Just Get Started
Seriously. Just start doing what you’ve been putting off. Forget perfection. Forget getting ready. Forget gathering support or any other trick that you use to postpone the inevitable. You and I both know that you have to get that stuff done, so start doing it.
I understand, it’s hard to get moving. A body at rest wants to stay at rest. However, once you get going, a body in motion wants to stay in motion.
But don’t worry about that for now. Don’t worry about finishing your work, or getting it all right, or whatever else might come later…just get started.
Want to start a new project? Start brainstorming it. Need to get that stack of reports done? Do one right now. Interested in a meditation practice? Set your timer for 5 minutes and close your eyes.
I don’t think I need to remind you that one day you’re not going to be here anymore. If you want to fill the time between now and then with pointless anxiety, unnecessary frustration and fruitless moments, then by all means, keep putting all that stuff off until tomorrow.
But if you want a life that you can be proud of…a life of adventure, accomplishment, heart-felt connections and really good stories, then you’re going to have to get off your hump. You have to set the wheels in motion. You have to get going on something in 5…4…3…2…
Go for it, my friend. As the old saying goes, “Fortune favors the bold.” Go win the favor of your fortune, before dawdling steals another precious breath from your lips.
What can YOU get started on right NOW?
It’s 2019 … Welcome to the “New You”!
Your Passion … Your Goals … YOUR LIFE!®
© 2019 whittleton consulting
Have you ever felt that there’s just not enough time in the day? Most often, when we run out of time for projects or pursuits, the reason is that we’ve spent a lot of time lost in ambiguity. I’m sure you all can relate to this and that is how I was feeling in my first year of starting my practice; so much to do and so little time! As part of Welcome to the “New You”! program I am rolling out in 2019, I’m changing the way I work.
When you’re supremely clear about where you’re going and what you want to do, there’s no time lost. Decisions are easy to make, actions are easy to take, and you can get a lot accomplished in a short period of time.
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to eliminate the time-management nightmare.
1. Plan your work.
Take a few moments to determine where you’re going and how you plan to get there. You don’t have to know all the steps or details; just write down the basic outline as you can see it.
2. Gather your resources.
Get your tools in order so you don’t have to stop once you begin because you are missing something important. What do you need to do this job right? Get it.
3. Set a time and work your plan.
Give yourself a timeline. How long will you work on your project? Then follow your outline step-by-step and focus only on the task at hand. Do not check email, answer the phone, or have a conversation with a friend. If you get lost or distracted, come back to your outline and see what’s next.
Before long, you will have a finished your project, and have plenty of time to relax or do something else … like dream about what you are going to do next ….
It’s 2019 … Welcome to the “New You”!
Your Passion … Your Goals … YOUR LIFE!®
© 2019 whittleton consulting
Main-te-nance (noun): work that is done regularly to keep a machine, building or piece of equipment in good condition and working order.
My last blog post was about increasing personal productivity and the importance of not getting so caught up in putting out fires that we don’t get to anything of real significance.
Consider if you have a 1967 Porsche Targa in your driveway; the issue of a tune-up is a no-brainer. No one would risk ruining such a finely crafted (and expensive) machine by neglecting routine—but critical—maintenance.
Ah, but when we turn our attention to the finely crafted “machine” reading this article, and the equally finely crafted enterprise you’re responsible for, suddenly “tune-up” starts to sound like your mother nagging you to brush your teeth. Yet the same principles apply: Maintenance is what it takes to keep us “in good condition and working order.”
Step #1 in any productivity tune-up has to start with a quick assessment of where you stand today. What’s frustrating you? Where do you feel you are failing, or just failing to achieve your potential? What are the sources of stress? Next, take a hard look at the source of these problems.
Or, as productivity expert Julie Morgenstern puts it, answer the question: “Is it me, or is it them?” Taking a hard look at these issues will help point out what needs attention. Then consider some of these tips and resources from well-known productivity experts to identify ways you can accomplish more while reducing stress and putting some enjoyment back in your life.
Keep track of your most important commitment—the one you make to yourself. Productivity guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done , contends that commitments to yourself are qualitatively different than those you make to others because your conscious mind can essentially “lose track” of them. While your boss will remind you of your commitments to her, your mind doesn’t know your email address. What Allen calls your “mental RAM” will continue to expect those commitments to be fulfilled, but you may have forgotten about them amidst the clamor of your work life. The result is the worst kind of stress, because you feel the pressure but you can’t quite figure out where it’s coming from. In his most recent book, Ready for Anything: 52 Productivity Principles for Work and Life , Allen offers several effective tips for capturing these “open loops” and closing them, either by completing, canceling or renegotiating them.
Practice saying “No.” Do you find that your work has bled almost seamlessly into your personal life? One of the answers to this problem is often the word, “No.” You have to acquire the skill to utter that magic word in order to create some boundary around your work and create the opportunity for personal relaxation and renewal. The key is to steadfastly turn down obligations unless they further your priorities.
Invest in your health. This goes without saying, right? Actually, for most of us, it also goes without doing. Yet, apart from the obvious benefits of better health, increasing your physical well-being can yield tremendous benefits in terms of your productivity at work. In the view of Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, authors of The Power of Full Engagement , it is managing your energy—starting with your physical health, including diet, sleep and exercise—that is more important than managing time in improving your personal productivity.
Protect your mornings. Author and motivational speaker Brian Tracy refers to the “magic hour” after you get up—a time to protect yourself from the news and other distractions and concentrate on your day: What you are going to accomplish and exactly how you are going to do it. Many experts report that most people are naturally more creative and energetic in the mornings, which is an argument for applying yourself to your most challenging tasks then and saving the routine housecleaning until later in the day, one of the notions at the heart of the Morgenstern’s Never Check Email in the Morning .
Pick a system—any system—just pick one. How many different places do you squirrel away information? Email? Yellow pads? Daily planner? PDA? Post-it Notes stuck like a yellow halo around your computer screen? It might take a serious investment of time to sort through the options, but decide on one…and then use it. Each of the productivity experts referenced here, and the hundreds of others in the bookstore, will claim their system is the best. But most of them also acknowledge that any system that you actually use is going to be better than no system or the hodge-podge that so many of us have fallen into. As Allen puts it, in choosing an organizer, whether high-tech or a stack of 3×5 cards, go for “simplicity, speed and fun.”
Fun? Wait, did that man say “fun”? Another important tune-up is to get reconnected with what’s happening to your personal life. Maintaining your personal relationships, relaxing and—gasp!—having fun are critical to your mental health, which, in turn, affects your energy, creativity and productivity.
But the most important tip of all is to build a regular “Tune-Up” into your calendar. There are countless ways you can improve your productivity, lower your stress and enhance your physical and emotional well-being. But they all require some focus, some thought and some energy. The key is to treat the process of personal renewal itself as a priority.
To use Stephen Covey’s classic “maintenance” metaphor, think of this as “sharpening the saw.” Schedule it. Place it in the priority queue, assign time to it, and actually give it some of your attention. Your time will be well spent.
It is interesting how often it seems like we get so busy and focused on putting out daily fires that we don’t ever get to accomplish anything of real significance—those things that would make us happiest in the long run. Life becomes something to “get through” instead of an exciting path to greater fulfillment.
The efficiency of technology only increases the pressure we feel to do even more than ever before. All of it leaves us feeling too busy and robbed of a sense of accomplishment. So, what can we do to increase personal productivity? Below are some tips to help you to get more done in less time—and do what you really want to be doing.
Often busy-ness is a cover for not really knowing what’s the best thing to be doing. To get around this, you have to know what your priorities are in the moment. To determine this, you need know what your larger life priorities are.
One of my favorite authors is Stephen R. Covey, best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and he suggests writing a personal or organizational mission statement, a statement that summarizes your higher purpose and goals in life. Here’s an example:
To create a balanced, healthy and value-driven life by creating nurturing relationships and guiding others to see their full potential through my work as a therapist.
Without a mission, you won’t be able to say no to tasks. You can only know what to say no to when you know what to say yes to first.
We can learn all the self-management tricks in the book, but none of them will be worth a dime if we don’t follow through and use them. That’s where self-discipline comes in. There’s no easy, painless way to enforce self-discipline, but if we don’t utilize it, we will be left forever unfulfilled.
Brian Tracy, one of the world’s top business speakers and author of 35 books on business and personal productivity, offers some very simple advice: Simply start doing what you know you need to do. Stop pushing it off for later. Once you start seeing the results active self-discipline yields, the desire for the payoff begins to become greater than your resistance to taking action.
To more easily promote successful self-discipline, Covey and Tracy suggest breaking down tasks into smaller chunks and then simply focusing on taking the first steps. This way all your tasks and goals won’t feel so overwhelming, which makes it easier to take action.
Clean up the loose ends
David Allen, author of Ready for Anything, points out how crises typically arise because secondary priorities have been neglected. He suggests working on unfinished tasks to open up your creativity. It’s more difficult to focus on the bigger, more urgent tasks when you’re painfully aware of ongoing but necessary projects that you never seem to start, such as reorganizing your files, catching up with your accounting, or updating your phone book. So, set aside some time—even if it’s just an hour or two a week—to work on these longer term, but less urgent projects. Just don’t let these tasks become distractions from working on the bigger picture goals.
Shattering the creativity/organization myth
Allen also talks about how many people believe that if they’re organized, they can’t be as creative. As if having too much structure limits one’s artistic expression. But every form of art needs structure. A painting or a photograph needs composition. Each individual scene in a screenplay needs to work with each other as a whole. The truth is, your creative capacity actually expands when you give it structure. That’s because when you’re organized, you actually know what to do and how to do it—as opposed to having all these wonderful, but unrealized, ideas bumping around in your head.
Balancing stress and recovery
Top athletes around the world know the value of alternating periods of intense activity and focus with periods of rest. Balancing stress and recovery are also critical in managing personal energy—and thus, productivity—in all areas of our lives.
“Too much energy expenditure without sufficient recovery eventually leads to burnout and breakdown,” write Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz in their book, The Power of Full Engagement. “Too much recovery without sufficient stress leads to atrophy and weakness … full engagement requires cultivating a dynamic balance between the expenditure of energy (stress) and the renewal of energy (recovery) in all dimensions.”
Work when you’re supposed to be working!
If you want to maximize your productivity at work and balance it into the larger scheme of your life, focus is crucial. Tracy says the reason people’s lives get out of balance is not because they have too much work to do, but because they do too little work. And he means they waste too much time when they’re supposed to be working. If you have to, turn off the phone and shut down your email. You’ll find the more work you do get done, the better you feel—which motivates you to keep doing more of the same.
And some quick tips…
- Write out your goals.
- Break down your goals into actions.
- Break down these actions into bite-sized chunks.
- Schedule these chunks into your planner.
- Follow through with action.
- NEVER give into the temptation to do the small things first just because they’re small.
- Intersperse periods of intense work with periods of recovery, even if brief.