I read recently about sports that have “bye” weeks factored into their regular season schedules. These are periods in a schedule where teams will get extra rest due to either uneven amount of teams in the league or other reasons. Teams generally use this time to regroup and simply take a break from the routine.
This past week, I had a bye week of my own.
We got away for a few days. Away from the usual routine. It was a good time to get away from work for me. Sometimes you just need to recharge your batteries. Clear your head. Wind down.
That’s exactly what I did.
I spent a lot of time looking at ocean waves and just thinking about random things. When I found a drifting thought about what I needed to do at work, I would reign it in and reset my mind.
I have known people who literally brag about how much they work, when they have worked on weekends or talking about how much vacation time they haven’t used. I just shake my head at these people and wonder if they know what it is to have a life outside of the office. It’s a scary thing. It doesn’t impress me at all.
Humans are not made to work nonstop or trudging through the same routine without taking a break. We all need it. We have to remind ourselves that, while work is important, it shouldn’t be our life or the thing that defines us. I remember when I was younger, I would work those long hours and volunteer for extra duties without getting paid extra because I wanted to make my mark. I learned that it doesn’t do anything at all. It just gets you more work and, believe me, people will take advantage of that. I understand there are times and projects that require extra but we should never willingly subject ourselves to it because we want to get some kind of badge of courage.
It is easy for fall into the trap of doing it all but many successful people understand one thing – taking time off. Studies have shown that you get more done quicker when you step back and recharge your brain and rest your body. It is also proven that taking time off increases performance. When you do not take time off, you are at risk of burnout.
So as I watched the waves this weekend and closed my eyes to hear them crash against the shore, I let things go. Tomorrow will take care of itself. If God rested after creating the earth, surely I should take a timeout.
Do I want to go back? No I do not. I’m recharged but I am certainly not eager to return. In fact, I have checked my emails and see that I am going to be slammed when I walk in the door. You might think I would have been better off by not taking the days off and working so it wouldn’t be waiting for me. Sorry, but I wouldn’t trade it. Life isn’t about work. I was able to spend time with the people that are the most important to me.
Use your vacation days. No one gets an award for saving the most unused vacation days. Americans get far fewer vacation days than many other countries around the world, yet we still don’t take all of our time off. We’re not robots.
Here are a few things that you need to do on your time off:
- Don’t stay home. If you do, you will be tempted to do chores around the house to replace your time at work. Go to a place that encourages rest such as the beach, a cruise or travel.
- Unplug the work devices. Don’t check your work email every five minutes. If it necessary, make only set times that you check emails. Also remember that you do NOT have to respond to emails.
- Take time to do nothing. Your body and mind will appreciate being still for a change. Most people look negatively at this as being lazy and unproductive but it will benefit you later.
- Spend time with your family. No one wants their tombstone to read “I wish I had spent more time at the office”.
I see people all the time that can’t seem to break ties from the office. Even when they retire, they are still coming back for visits. They work all their years toward retirement yet they find themselves drawn back to the daily grind they were looking so forward to leaving. The same is true for taking time off from work. People talk about it but somehow they still want to be invaluable to their work.
I hate to break this to you but do you know what happens when the day comes that you retire or leave? They will just hire someone else and move on. That’s why it is important that you take care of yourself and take some “bye” weeks for yourself.