How to take time off

When I started my first job nearly a decade ago, I thought that the best way to get things done at work was to plough right through tasks and keep going until the work was done. After all, if it had worked in college, it would work in the real world, right?

It took me years to realize that this approach was the fast track to burnout. When you’re in college, you have defined end points, be they mid-term breaks, semester breaks, or of course the end of the program. But work doesn’t work that way; If you kept going till the work was done, you’d never stop! There are always special projects to complete and must-hit goals or deadlines to meet. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t stop or take a clear break.

At my current employer, I’ve been lucky to benefit from both our generous leave and sabbatical policies. Our leave policy allows us to take up to fifteen days off in the first two years, and unlimited leave after that. Our sabbatical policy allows those who complete five years at the company to take five weeks off. I’ve used both these policies to rest, recharge and come back raring to go.

No matter what stage of your career you’re in, you need to set up pre-defined breaks and rest. The rest helps in a variety of ways:

  • Giving you new perspective and a fresh eye to catch errors you may have made at the job.
  • Putting you in a better mood, which probably makes you a better colleague!
  • Reminding you to be grateful for the things you do at work—being away from it gives you appreciation for what you have.

Here are some tips for planning your leave:

  1. Start planning early: At the start of the year, look at your upcoming year and identify existing holidays that you can piggy-back on to take a longer break. This could include Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.
  2. Use your existing break to plan your next one: Nothing makes you more eager to plan your next break like enjoying your current one.
  3. When you take time off, let everyone know that the only way they can reach you is via phone/text: this limits the desire to check your email all the time to keep up with work. People will call/text only if they have to versus email, which we all use much more casually.

As the new year approaches, make a resolution to take more time off. It doesn’t just benefit you personally; It will make you a better employee.

I wrote  a version of this post here, a few years ago. I wanted to reshare an updated version, above.

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