Of the many ramifications and variables, the COVID-19 pandemic put into motion one change that has affected many in the workforce. The weight of both work responsibilities and the work cycle.
The disruptions and the needed changes to accommodate them creates a state of elevated urgency for many. Challenges such as supply and staff shortages have long-range effects that constantly have to be monitored and demand persistent updates to what was previously understood as our normal work cycle. Counterintuitive as it may seem, as the demands increase, so does the need for us to rest and give our minds a break. The needed opportunities to take it apply to the weekly cycle (the weekend for most) and longer breaks such as vacation time.
In order to be our best in our work, we need to also consider how we handle our time off in a best practice approach as well. To ignore this invites not only less than our best efforts in solving problems at work it will eventually eat into job satisfaction and possibly result in total burnout. Here are some reminders on practices that will help us take a break:
- Shut off work temptations. Whether it is a weekend or a week in order to rest your mind and spirit you have to shut down the temptations that draw you back to work. This may mean such actions as shutting off the notifications feature on email and not opening up your calendar if these are things that draw your attention back to the needs of work. It is very challenging in a quiet moment to ignore that notification of a new mail badge or other alerts you may set up. Even if you aren’t pulled into opening your inbox to investigate mentally you know it is there and it draws your focus away from rest. Additionally, if you only keep one calendar for work and personal things you might consider going to a paper calendar for the weekend or for vacation so as to cut down on the temptation to focus on what might be in there that applies to work. Your objective in time off is not to actively think about work so carefully think through what draws your attention back to it and seek to curb or eliminate them in your time off.
- Take time to inventory what you should not be doing instead of what you should be. Periodically dedicate some time to think about where your time is going. Work/Life balance is fundamental to one’s enthusiasm toward life’s challenges. Has work gotten away from you? Are the things you are focusing on at work the important things that really make a difference? The key is to be able to distinguish between being busy and accomplishing tasks. Inevitably our habits lead us to get involved in actions that only tangentially relate to success in our work. Think through and document how you spend your time in the workday. Carefully culling what doesn’t move you forward will direct your best energies toward the important tasks, leave you with more energy, and improve your ability to get the full benefit from the rest you’ve earned.
- Be mindful of professional development. Intentional professional development is a vital part of anyone who is seeking to grow their influence in the workplace and opportunities to do so should be pursued. Sometimes the time off on weekends and on vacation time is taken to read some materials that pertain back you one’s work or leadership growth. While this is not always a negative one should approach this cautiously and be mindful of where your energy levels are. When we are tired and our minds are cluttered the time we invest in professional development reading on weekends and vacations really will do us little good. No matter how many good books you read on best practices little will apply if your mind doesn’t have the clarity to see the opportunities. Sometimes we have to take a full mental break and invest some time in reading and other media that have nothing to do with our profession. For many, they find those moments of sudden clarity on issues they have been struggling with happening in the midst of the most mundane pursuits. Make sure your mind has some “free time” every once in a while and it will lead to fresh thinking.
- Intentionally invest in what matters. It’s not that “all work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy” as the saying goes. The greater threat is all work and no play means that the sum of one’s life contributions are in work. Refreshment and significance come from investing in what is important outside of work. For many this is family, for some hobbies, others it is a type of service. Intentional investment in these not only enriches your life it allows the mind to focus on other things than work thus leading to a chance for more clear-headed thinking.
Rest doesn’t always have to mean a long nap or a weekend on the couch. What it does mean is a significant and real mental break from what occupies your mind during the work week. The way we improve our work doesn’t come sheerly from the quantity of hours, it’s the quality of the hours we give to it. Be intentional about giving your mind a break and it will elevate your work.