Photo by bogers
It never fails. I am presented with a large chunk of time off, and I immediately start planning all the things I can get done. Inevitably, though, one of two things will happen: I’ll get it done and I’ll be completely stressed out, or I won’t get it all done, and I’ll feel guilty for not making better use of my time.
So what is the better way? Is it better to try and get more done during time off? Or not?
The Argument for More
With large chunks of unscheduled time in front of you, you might be tempted to try and get more done. Get caught up on filing, reorganize your house, paint the kitchen, etc. The urge is there to do things that require larger blocks of time to try and use them. Some big projects, as much as you break them down, cannot be accomplished in 5 minute segments between other tasks. Time off spent at home can be the ideal time to tackle such projects. And deviating from your normal course of activities can be rejuvenating, even if not strictly recreational.
The Argument Against More
When we try to do too much during time off we will have problems. I remember that I planned to get so much done during maternity leave! After all, here were eight weeks with nothing planned stretching out in front of me. Truth be told, I was lucky if I managed to do the basics during that time: self-care, baby care, basic cleaning and about 25% of the cooking.
Without realistic expectations, time off can become a source of “shoulda-coulda-woulda”. Sure, you may have five days off, but only one free afternoon. So painting the entire house would probably out of the question.
Cramming too much in can also counteract the effects of time off. When we run at 100% during the time we are supposed to be regenerating, sure, we will get lots done, but the cost can be too high. Everyone needs downtime in order to charge their batteries. While changing activities can be rejuvenating by itself, changing activities and taking no time to rest is a bad choice and will lead to stress.
The Argument for Less
Time off can be time to play. If we schedule our time, we lose the ability to be spontaneous. Freedom from a set list of tasks can be like a load lifted.
The Argument Against Less
Without a list of goals, people can fritter there time away. The difference is in conscious intention. It is fine to watch sitcoms if that is what you intend to do, but getting trapped into hours of channel surfing unintentionally can be as draining as overwork.
Have you ever slept too much in a day? The feeling of lethargy can stay with you until the next day. Inactivity can also lead to lethargy.
I am convinced that the keys to successful time off are the following:
- Moderation in expectations.
- Choosing activities purposefully, even during unscheduled time
- Knowing what is important enough to do and what is not important enough to spend time on
It occurs to me that this is the heart of every productivity system!