I’m one of the lucky people that get to call their biggest hobby their job. I get to do what I love and I thoroughly enjoy it, but it also means I sometimes just don’t know when to stop. I often find myself getting caught up in my work and working 7 days a week, for nearly all my waking hours. Even though I love working and I gladly do it this intensely, whether it’s healthy for me is very questionable. This year I want to focus on working hard, doing my best, but also taking care of myself and intentionally planning in time just for myself.
Ideally, you should take at least one or two hours a day for yourself, and a few weeks per year completely off work. I often struggle with this, especially when I need to shut off for a week in a row. I have four very exciting holidays planned from now through summer, and have already planned more blog photos and videos to shoot on location there than I could possibly have the time to shoot. Now of course the fact that I run my own business and the nature of my business makes this a bit more acceptable (or am I making excuses?), but I need to give myself at least one or two full work-free days per holiday. I’m there to relax after all, not to work even harder than I do at home! Be hard on yourself, and know that your business won’t collapse if you take your mind off it for just a few days, especially if you’ve prepared well.
Now, why is it so important to take some time off? Our brain wasn’t made to work 24/7. It needs to focus on different things throughout the day, use both sides and all the sections, and it needs some time to refuel completely. The brain works best when there’s a nice balance between different stimuli and complete rest, i.e. sleep.
Giving your brain some rest during the day, say 15-30 minutes, can boost your productivity tremendously afterwards. You’ll feel refreshed and with that surge of new energy, you’re very likely to get more done in that shorter amount of time than you would have if you hadn’t taken the break and kept on working. Of course, when you’re in a flow, keep going for as long as the flow lasts. But if you’re sitting at your desk staring at empty pages, you’d better get up and do something else for a while. Getting your mind off work for a bit helps to get your creative juices flowing again- which tend to get stuck under pressure and stress. While an upcoming deadline and a bit of stress can help some people get a productivity surge, creativity is really at its best when you’re relaxed and out of context.
Taking your mind off your work for a few days can help you put things into perspective. As the stress goes down you’ll start to see things more clearly. What exactly is it you’re stressing about? Is it really as big as you’ve made it out to be? Often it’s also easier to map out your problems and see solutions from a distance. Looking at your situation with fresh eyes can really help you see things differently and you may be surprised at how strong your comeback will be when you return to work.
Not being involved in your work for a while can also help put the spark back into your work life. You started doing this for a reason, and when you get too caught up in the stress and obligations and deadlines, you lose track of the passion that made you embark on this adventure in the first place. Take some time off, get out of it for a few days, and you may just find yourself longing to get back to work. Re-kindle the fire!
So now we’ve discussed the benefits time off can have for your work. But what about your mental health?
Taking time to consiously enjoy doing the things you love (whether that’s sports, reading, arts, or just staring into the distance) will keep you sane and make sure you don’t feel like work is the only thing present in your life. You’re more than your job! Developing yourself outside of work can give you personal fulfillment, boost your happiness, and decrease stress.
Speaking of stress, this is a condition that’s harmful not only to your mind, but to your body as well. Stress is a defense mechanism of your body, it’s not supposed to be on all the time. It drains your energy, puts pressure on your heart and digestive system, and can leave you in a lousy mental state. It’s very important to keep stress under control. Take that time to yourself even when you feel like you can’t afford it; your body and mind will thank you for it further down the road.
Sometimes there is only one way to bring some rest into your life, and that’s planning it in. Schedule in one hour of down time into your planner every day and make it as high a priority as any other obligations you have that day. Also go ahead and schedule in one week off in, say, one or two months. That way you can prepare, maybe work ahead a bit, get everything ready and enjoy a full week off to refuel your brain, rekindle your passion and de-stress. You’ll love it.