As much as I love relaxation when traveling, I have a hard time pressing stop when I’m not on the road. It’s not unknown for me to come home from a 9 hour work day to spend another 2 hours in front of the computer working on projects for the various groups I volunteer for. I’m notorious for saying yes to too many things, feeling overwhelmed, and saying I will cut back…only to take on more the next time an offer is sent my way. I am constantly relearning my breaking point and redrawing my boundaries, and my usual solution to overwhelm is a resounding, “I need a vacation!”
While it’s great to relax and unwind while on vacation, a planned trip away shouldn’t be the only time you take time for yourself. Jamming yourself full with commitments between trips will only continue the cycle of overwhelm and fatigue. I’ve learned the hard way (many times) that failing to schedule “white space” in my week leaves me anxious, resentful, and not fun to be around. But how do you know when it’s time to take a break if it’s not a scheduled trip away from your jam-packed life?
1. Your home is not a haven, it’s another reminder of all you have to do. This is a hard one, especially for those of us that spend a significant amount of time working from home. It’s hard to “clock out” when your workspace is also your live-space. How to combat the constant reminder of your to-do list?
- Try to carve out a space within your home that you devote to work, and avoid it when you’re not working. Or, if you’re like me and live in a tiny urban apartment with no separate office, you hide your computer. Yes, literally take your computer and work materials and put them out of sight. It’s too easy to see your laptop and open it “to do this one quick thing.” No. Out of sight, out of mind.
2. Your time off is still on…online that is. You are online 8+ hours a day, spend an hour scrolling your phone while commuting, and open the computer as soon as you walk through the door. Sound familiar? If you’re like me and your significant other gives you the side-eye when you reach for your laptop, it may be a sign you need to start setting boundaries and prioritize your time offline.
- Set time on specific weeknights to do 1 hour of work, then shut off your computer and focus on the other things that are important in life. This will give you a short window to efficiently finish tasks without succumbing to mindless browsing.
- Take a book, a real-life paper book, on your commute. It’s easy to read on your phone (Kindle App lover over here!) but give your eyes a rest from the screen and use that time to read the written word the way the ancients used to, on a paper page.
3. Your phone is the first thing you look at in the morning and the last thing before bed. You turn off your phone’s alarm, open your email, switch to Facebook, open Instagram, comment and like a few photos, hop on Twitter and then check Pinterest…all before even sitting up in bed. And you may or may not have the same routine before falling asleep. Sound familiar? For many of us, our online lives play big roles in our offline lives and there is a fine line between just enough online engagement and full-on 2 hour scroll sessions.
- Set an alarm for three times a day–morning, midday, and night–to spend 5 minutes checking your phone. It will take a few days to break the habit of reaching for your phone every time you have some down time, but your concentration and urge to mindlessly scrol will slowly decrease.
4. Showers and meals are starting to seem inconvenient. You’re hungry, but making food sounds like a waste of precious work time. You should take a shower, but who’s going to see you anyway? If you’ve ever had these thoughts, it’s probably time to unplug and and back slowly away from the computer.
- Set windows of time to work on the weekends and when the window is up, step away from the laptop.
- Get outside the house first thing on the weekends and schedule your work time for later in the day. This will decrease your tendency to get wrapped up in your work and find out it’s 5pm and you’ve been sitting in the same spot at the kitchen table all day (this has happened to me, many times).
5. You are looking forward to some time off…3 months from now. You love to travel, see the world and enjoy new cuisines, but your PTO is low and you’re looking forward to when you’ll finally be able to relax on vacation…in 3 months. If you are thinking about having a bit of time off that is over a month away, it’s probably time you scheduled a weekend staycation.
- Set one weekend a month to ‘digitally detox.’ No phone, no computer. Trust me, there are things to do that don’t include a device.
- Fill your weekend with fun activities. Remember that coffee shop you drove by that you’ve been wanting to try, or that pottery class you’ve been meaning to take? Take a book and enjoy a cup of joe or meet a friend and make your pet a ceramic water dish. Whatever it is you’ve been wanting to try, do it!
- Plan your time off to be truly off. While filling your staycation weekend with activities is great, sometimes you really just need a day to have truly nothing to do. There is nothing better than waking up on a Saturday and knowing you have literally nothing planned for the day. It’s an adventure in itself to see where the day will take you!