I write a lot here on the RWorks blog about productivity, and ways to increase it. I run a productivity series on twitter. I write for the Top Tips for Working At Home series on the RWorks Facebook page. Productivity is key, and at RWorks we are all about that.
However, a core part of this is that I believe in being 'off' when I am off. I believe it is really important to turn off the PC (and the cellphone sometimes too!), and just 'be'- for me, it's being a mother, a wife, a friend, a person. And despite the pressures of business today, isn't it up to all of us as individuals to decide for ourselves how we are going to live our lives outside of work. And the work-life balance debate begins again.
That's a delicate balance. If we get it wrong by overworking and not taking enough time off, fatigue and burnout ensues. So, it's worth considering the different ways in which we can take a step back from work. That way, when we are working, we are focused, productive, and firing on all cylinders.
I feel we need breaks of short, medium and long durations. Each of these types of breaks offer different benefits.
The Short Break- The Evenings and Weekends Off
Taking the evenings and weekends off balances out the week. You can use that time to spend time with family and friends, get some exercise, get chores done, spend time on hobbies. This type of short break just allows you to re-group and re-gather in time for work the next day.
The Medium Length Break- The Vacation
Taking one or more full weeks totally off from work is so important to our health and well-being that it is enshrined into employment law in many (but not all) countries. Plan for it, save money for it, look forward to it. Live vicariously through other peoples vacation stories while waiting for your own to begin.
Take a look at Jonah Lehrer's great article on wired.com
He writes that one of the great luxuries of the 21st century is vacation without email. He explains that "when we feel distant from our work- when it seems wonderfully far away- we are able to think about work in a new way. As a result, seemingly impossible problems- that challenge we've been struggling with for months- are suddenly solvable. We have the breakthrough while on break".
The Long Break- The Sabattical
This is the cream of the crop of breaks. While everyone aims for evening and weekends off, and the annual vacation, not many plan to take a sabattical.
I personally have first-hand experience of the benefits of this type of break. I took the best part of a year off in 1999/2000. I flew to New Delhi, India and backpacked the Himalayan foothills and the northern parts of India. I learned how to meditate, lived on Tibetan and Indian food, mets lots of other travellers from places all over the world, travelled from place to place by camel, elephant, scooter and rickshaw, and met also lots of individuals and families native to the places I visited, including the Dalai Lama. It was a truly wonderful experience, I wrote a journal, read lots of books, and all in all got to know myself (and the direction I wanted my life to go in) a whole lot better.
A sabattical certainly enhances creativity and inspiration. Stefan Sagmeister takes one year off every seven years to pursue other things, and keep his work fresh and new. You can watch his engaging and entertaining presentation on:
Becoming recharged with energy and re-connecting with yourself will provide you with renewed enthusiasm and motivation for your work. Who knows what new projects and ideas you will come up with once you have had some time out to develop a new perspective.
Bio: Valerie Redmond is co-founder of RWorks. She writes a weekly blog on www.rworks.com about teleworking and productivity. She can be contacted via email on email@example.com, or on twitter @rworker.....unless she's taking a nap (couldn't resist!)