I have a confession to make. I am terrible at taking time off from my work. Not only do I naturally suffer from “I can never get everything done!” syndrome, but the inherent lack of home/work boundaries while working from home as a freelancer make it that much harder to “go home” and stop working for the day. Before I discovered the joys of Batch Processing, I would essentially work myself into the ground until my body decided to make me take a break by getting sick. I would feel guilty any time I wasn’t taking the time to check more items off my to-do lists (yep, lists, plural).
As I’ve gotten better at “clocking out”, I’ve come to a few realizations that help me keep myself accountable for taking time to rest.
1. There’s always going to be more to do, so be okay with pushing some things away until later.
Every morning I look over my to-do list for the day. I use the amazing Todoist app to keep track of all my to-dos, and I schedule most of them to pop up automatically in my “Today” list on designated days. This often leads to huge to-do lists at the beginning of the day, much more than any mere mortal could reasonably accomplish. I scan the list, and if there is anything that can absolutely be deferred to another day, I reschedule it then and there. This usually cuts my to-do list down by at least a third if not by half every day, with the added bonus of keeping you focused on the to-do items that are of a higher priority.
I’ve learned over time what amount of work can reasonably be expected by one person in roughly 8 hours of work per day (7, if you give yourself an hour for lunch, which you should), and don’t push myself to do more. We all hit those super-productive days every once in a while where we churn out three days’ worth of work in a matter of hours, but remember that that is the exception rather than the norm. If I get through my entire to-do list in record time, I can always go through my pending to-do items and check a few more off, so why not start with a shorter list for today?
2. If my body is going to force me to take time off regardless, I’d rather schedule it on my own terms.
Instead of being forced to take a break by becoming deathly ill, take precautionary measures by taking an intentional day off every once in a while! You’ll actually get to enjoy the time off rather than being sick through all of it.
This is a huge one for me. When I switched to Batch Processing I was able to enjoy my intentional rest time a lot more, because I knew that I had already scheduled a time to get to my other tasks. I had already planned to take care of those things, and that planned time was not during my rest time! These days I try to take at least one full day off per week.
3. A true break really allows you to recharge.
Before, if I was forced to take a break for whatever reason and I didn’t fully commit to enjoying the time off, I didn’t actually get rested and wasn’t adequately recharged when the time came to work again. Because “work stuff” was constantly in the back of my mind—or even just the guilt of not working—I didn’t actually take a break because my brain was still focused on work things!
Be okay with not working. Be okay with the fact that you are a mere mortal. You are not special—you need rest like everyone else. The break doesn’t mean you aren’t getting things done. The break is allowing your body to recuperate and operate at 100% later, rather than at 50% capacity at all times. All of these are things of which I have to constantly remind myself.
Do you have a favorite way to spend a day off? What allows you to come back recharged and energized for the tasks ahead?