I used to love international travel for work. I would get so much work done during the uninterrupted time on long-distance flights. Sometimes I would get whole days to myself if I was traveling over a weekend, or arriving on a Sunday morning. It felt wonderful because it was all me time “guilt free”. Meaning it just happened and I didn’t have to assert my needs by asking for it. These pockets of time were gifts.
In retrospect, that was not a healthy point of view (especially when you consider the 6-8-hour time shift between where I lived and where I landed…). Yes, I was very productive, and that felt good. But in reality, it meant I wasn’t prioritizing my own needs (starting with sleep – jet lag is real). Taking for time for yourself is a skill, one we are not taught how to do. Notice I didn't say asking for time - if you make it sound optional by asking, instead of telling yourself/someone else that you need time, you won't get it. Don't leave this up to the permission of others. It is up to each of us to empower this for ourselves, allowing us to meet our own needs in an environment where there are others with their own, sometimes competing, needs.
Regular time off helps you to reduce the health issues that come with over-work and over-commitment to work; including high blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels. Essentially these are the factors that put you at risk for heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Taking time away from work, including sustained vacation time (7-14 days) can make the difference between staying healthy the rest of the year and burning out your health, forcing you to take time off to recover.
Professionals who take a consistent time off, and really make it a break from work, have advantages over those who don’t. Over the course of a year their productivity will be more consistent than those who didn't give themselves a real break. Professionals who take time away from work also experience fewer dips and swings in their motivation, focus, energy and creativity throughout the year.
Stepping back, taking a complete break from work is key to reducing burnout risk because it keeps the tunnel vision at bay. Taking time away from work breaks both the "status-quo" bias and the hyper-focus on all the “to do’s”, the expectations, the deadlines… providing a perspective that nourishes all of you, not just the work you do.
When was the last time you took time just for you? Not for the kiddo’s, not to get errands done. Time to do something you wanted to do (not something you should or had to do)? It’s a healthy thing to plan for, taking time you’ve earned just for yourself; we plan for family vacations, but do you plan for an hour, or a day, of time for yourself? This doesn’t always mean taking time off work to do it, but if you have enough earned time, why not (that overtime isn't going to use itself)?
As it turns out, taking time for yourself also requires practice to break with the "status-quo" habit of doing the same routine everyday (which includes reaching for that phone to check e-mail). A past client of mine opted to take a day off each month in the summer, and just enjoy it. Sounds good right? What happened was she enjoyed a leisurely breakfast coffee…and then took a phone call and was on-line with work for the rest of the day. Or she would get anxious and decided to do some work in “stealth mode” (looking off-line but in reality, being connected to do work on what was supposed to be a day off). Sometimes taking time for yourself has a learning curve. I know my own “me time” can easily get consumed with work, or family needs, if I don’t have an intention for that time (like pajamas and a good book).
Where are you in the "leaving work alone" learning curve? Can you, without guilting yourself, take an hour, an afternoon or a day and do things just for yourself that help you to re-charge and take a break from the hectic pace of work and life?
This is an important skill to cultivate, empowering you to put yourself first (even if just for a little while). Particularly now as we start the slow "good-bye" to summer and contemplate back to school and more ambitious work schedules, how do you hang on to your "summer glow" and stay connected to both yourself and your work in a meaningful way that lets what you do nourish you?
Work to live, not live to work.
Being coached by Carleen I cultivated the ability to have compassion for myself, and learned to better appreciate myself, as well as the others around me. I am so grateful for our time together."