Time off is one of those things that we take for granted when we’re growing up. Every school year we have Thanksgiving break, Winter break, Spring break, and Summer break, not to mention the random days off that are peppered in for good measure (looking at you Columbus Day and Presidents Day). As we grow older though, these scheduled breaks become less prevalent until eventually the only days we have off are the federal holidays.
When we enter the work force we’re given an allotment of days off to use at our discretion, but one of the things I’ve noticed—at least about myself—is that people don’t take advantage of them. These days sit there, on the shelf, collecting dust until the end of the year when they are thrown away and replaced with a new lot that will meet the same fate.
As a culture, we don’t take full advantage of our days off. It could be because we’re new to the job and want to make a good impression. Maybe we’re afraid to ask. Hell, maybe we nothing to spend that time on. Regardless of the reason, not taking advantage of this time off can prove to be detrimental. Taking time for yourself is super important for a variety of reasons. Here are a few:
Work is silly. Some days you’ll be searching for something to do, and the next day you’ll be working through your lunch break or burning the midnight oil. The problem comes when these become regular occasions. It might be a situation where you feel great because you’re being crazy productive and you’re enjoying what you’re doing, but sooner or later it’s going to catch up to you. And once it does, you’re going to burn out, effectively destroying your productivity.
It’s not always conducive to take time off, but if there ever arises an opportunity, especially after a very busy stretch, take some of those off days and get out of dodge. Your mental health, your physical health, and your work will benefit.
SET BOUNDARIES AND EXPECTATIONS
These stories are usually the stuff of nightmares, but I promise you that there are people out there whose job requires them to be on call 24/7—think The Devil Wears Prada. Luckily, this seems to be a small group of people, but it’s still something to look out for.
If you don’t find yourself to be in this position, it’s very important that you learn to ask for time off, lest you be expected to be available at all times. Set boundaries for yourself and your work, and communicate them properly.
There are times when you have to take your work home with you, but it’s vital that you don’t take it home with you consistently. Setting a boundary as simple as “When I’m home, I don’t check my email” will make it clear to everyone that they need to get in touch with you either before you leave the office, or wait until the next day. There is nothing worse than being out, drink in hand, and having someone call you with work. Set the expectation that your time is for you and the boundaries will build themselves.
OPEN AVENUES OF HONESTY AND RESPECT
Building off of setting boundaries, if you can clearly communicate your need for your evenings to be yours, or for a week to unwind, you’ll start to foster honest and respectful relationships with the people you work with.
It’s not easy to ask for time off, or to make time for yourself, but if you can get over that barrier the only thing waiting for you on the other side is respect. And a quiet night with a glass of wine and a book. But mostly respect.
You’re given an allotment of days to take for yourself. Don’t be afraid to use them as you see fit.
Until next time – enjoy yourself!