Why Taking Time Off Matters

Taking A Break

I took a staycation week during March Break.

And I’m going to call that part of my #ProductivityProject2019 because, while I haven’t posted about it for a while, it’s still very much happening.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve tried:

⁃ Not checking my email right away in the morning, and instead, diving into a big project straight-away, leaving the mental clutter of email for a few minutes

⁃ Going back to something that’s always worked for me – a running to-do list of tasks that need completing so that I know what I need to get to

⁃ Blocking out distraction with earbuds during the workday

⁃ Taking a week off!

Overall, I didn’t like not checking email straightaway. Since it’s the primary mode of communication in our office, I felt like I was missing things.

But… I do love my typical method of keeping a running to-do list. I’m easily distracted, and it’s far too easy for me to be knocked off course by small projects. I find it’s easier for me to just keep that running list. It helps me understand what still needs to be done. And it’s a visual cue for me to know what has to happen.

The big thing for me, however, was this past week off. I’ve never been good at calling a time out, and I tend to get burnt out and stop performing before I notice I even need a break. Not a good thing.

What did I do for that week off? I hung out with my kids. I did a little reading. I did a lot of writing. Yoga every day. Saw dear friends and did a few silly, fun activities. I actually took the time for my annual check up (and got my tetanus booster that same day). Basically, if it removed me from the busy-ness of the day-to-day, I did it.

A study conducted by payroll company ADP in 2018 noted that one in three Canadians don’t take at least two weeks’ vacation (the average allotted vacation time for Canadians), and another 28% take less than half of their allotted days off. And many people, particularly those in precarious employment situations don’t even get paid time off – meaning that a vacation, even one where they stay home and relax, would actually COST them money. This isn’t okay.

Without vacations, many of us end up with the same symptoms I had: burnout, stress, a ridiculous level of cranky. I was short-tempered, eating poorly, and not practicing enough self-care because I had stopped setting boundaries, was saying yes to too much, and generally not honouring my own needs. I was letting it affect everything, and colour my capabilities.

For me, this week represented something I hadn’t given myself in a long time… freedom to step away. Freedom to not check email on my vacation (I KNOW I’m not the only one guilty of that). Freedom to say no to activities and events that drain me spiritually and emotionally.

How is that translating now that I’m back in the office? Well, much like anyone else who takes time off. I’m more engaged, happier, and more clear-headed. My to-do list is just as long, but it’s far less daunting. I’m feeling more rested, and less restless.

So, I suppose the answer has been there all along. Take the vacation time you’re given. Use every day of it. Because, at the end of it all, it actually makes you more productive.

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