It’s vitally important that you take time to rest and refresh yourself especially if you work in a role which involves caring for others. As midsummer’s day approaches, now is a good time to plan ahead for the summer to make sure that you get a proper break.
Here are some tips to help you really get the break you need and deserve:
- Start preparing for the weeks after you get back from work now. This means forward planning in your calendar wherever possible and easing yourself back into the world of work in as smooth a way as you can. Make sure that you have as quiet a day as you can schedule on your first day back, leaving yourself enough time to catch up. If you have to go straight back in at the deep end, then make sure you are planning in rest periods over the course of that first week back and that you are not over committing yourself.
- It is really easy to get extra busy in the weeks up to a longer holiday. We naturally want to clear the decks so that we can go away and forget about work as much as possible. Try to plan now so that the week before your holidays start is already a winding down period. Most people who have a busy career and work life need to go down through the gears from six to one. If your holiday is taken up with getting to fourth gear from sixth, then you will not get the full benefit of your break. So get into the holiday wind-down period well before you put your out of office on. Whilst it’s true that the longer holiday we have generally the more of a break and the more rested we feel, it is also true that if we are off work for more than four weeks (even on annual leave) then returning to work becomes more challenging. The opportunity is to find the sweet spot for you, where you both get a really good break and returning to work is a (relatively) effortless transition.
- Write a checklist of all the things that you need to remember to take with you or do before you go away, and work your way through this. You might have a standard checklist that you could use every year, to make planning for your break more easy. There are quite a few on the Internet if you google them!
- When you are on holiday, really be on holiday! This means being strict about boundaries with work, particularly with being contactable by emails and smart phones. If you must be in contact with your work for some reason, see if you can agree that one person will be the point of contact to make sure that any contact with you is really essential. You might like to buddy up with them and do the same for them so that they can have a proper break too, when it is their time to be on leave. You might like to agree a window during which any urgent messages can be conveyed to you, e.g. a half hour window on a specific day of the week. This frees up your mental efforts from wondering if anyone needs to contact you.
- Consider who might be able to help you with any filing, email prioritisation to make your return to work more easy. The Productivity Ninja book has lots of tips on how to use your email software to autodirect emails into different inboxes eg circulars into a ‘circulars’ folder.
- You may wish to put some boundaries around thinking about work whilst you are away too. It is a good idea to use a little of holiday time to reflect on your life and whether it is going in the direction that you want, (and in line with your chosen life directions if we’ve been working together) but if you notice that you are ruminating unhelpfully about work then really use your defusion skills – say thank you to your mind for doing its job of trying to help work things out, and then consciously choose to engage in something which matters to you whilst you are on your break.
- Holidays are a great opportunity to further develop your noticing (mindfulness) skills too, this may be through formal practices which you can listen to, or informal practices such as using your five senses to notice what is present in the outside world, or stopping every so often to notice what is happening internally in terms of thoughts, feelings, and body sensations. There is then an invitation to choose what to do next in terms of your values based actions.
- Take the time to connect with who and what matters most to you, and really savour the opportunities you have to focus on family, friends, yourself, and that which you value most.
- Make sure you’ve got your next break in your diary before you go back to work. Even if it is a night away at a friend’s house, if you don’t book it in, it might not happen.
I hope that you have a wonderful summer full of memories and fun and come back feeling refreshed and recharged. Maximising the opportunities for a real break is a skill and takes time and effort, so make sure you also take the time to learn from your preparations this year to make your next break even more relaxing.