Updated: Sep 27, 2021
If you struggle to take your holidays without lots of email checking, find it difficult to disconnect from work (practically and mentally) or worry that if you take a break, you’ll only have more work to do when you return, then you’re not alone.
2021 was the first summer where I took a whole month off from work! Yikes…
Having flexibility through the summer was always a key reason why I wanted to start my own business. I love lazy summer days – wandering through my local countryside and eating ice cream with my kids on the river. Sounds idyllic?
But up until this summer I tried to squeeze my work around my summer and typically ended up working weird hours, feeling resentful of those who managed to switch off and checking/answering emails whilst pretending I was taking a break. I was mentally and practically distracted quite a lot of the time.
So, this year I planned things a little different and took the whole of August off. Here’s what I learnt about myself and my business:
1. Rest is productive
This feels conflicting for me and regularly comes up as a topic of conversation for my clients. I know what the right answer is – but sometimes it’s hard to practice what you preach. To me rest doesn’t feel productive it feels wasteful. If you’re resting, you’re not “doing”, by definition.
These beliefs come from a strong of the importance of hard work and graft – I’ve always believed it’s good to work hard and have used it as a badge of honour at times. How many times have a I revelled in saying “I’m SO busy” but I know deep-down having this mindset and set of beliefs is toxic to those around me but also causes me to push too hard. Sometimes I need a reminder to slow down and remember that to grow you need to build in time for rest and recovery.
Rest for me isn’t necessarily Netflix and naps. Instead, I enjoy reading, exercising and doing activities that allow me to be present in the moment (I’m one of those people who is still doing jigsaws post-lockdown) and not multi-tasking with work. I find this to be the best way for me to relax and recharge my batteries. Everyone’s different and finding a way to disconnect from work that’s restorative is important for us all.
2. It’s easier to be creative when you’re not stuck in your emails
Sounds obvious, right? Inboxes are never-ending – what happens when the final email is answered…yep, you guessed it.
Having time away from emails is crucial to ignite your creative juices. I went with a new approach (for me) had a strict and clear out of office on – with clear dates and times when I would be checking and with clear instructions how to help yourself (booking a call, signing up to a newsletter etc). And with a clear message that I’d be back in September for everything else. That felt risky, what if my clients weren’t there when I returned…. they were.
There are multiple benefits from having more discipline around emails (and social media) during my normal working week. Bruce Daisley is his book “Joy of Work” talks about the benefits of reducing email checking:
“Half of all workers who check their emails out of work hours show signs of being highly stressed… we may think that we’re checking our emails to avoid being stressed about work, but our body doesn’t know that. It thinks we’re triggering an injection or cortisol because there’s a danger lurking… A break, however, allows us to recover our energy, attention, memory space and creativity.”
I’ve had so many lightbulb moments by having time away. I’m heading into September with much more clarity and direction. It’s hard to see the bigger picture when you’re squinting at a screen.
3. I need to be strategic about my time in September / Q4
Following all that creativity, I need to make sure I channel my energies and efforts in the right direction to ensure that I meet my bigger goals and aspirations for Elevate Her and Up Rising. That means a carefully planned out September and October.
I had to schedule 2 days in September for planning and getting my ideas and insights into a coherent plan. The temptation was to just get cracking and start dealing with all those summer emails I hadn’t actioned but instead I paused and reflected.
Stick around to the end of this blog, to see how you can too.
4. Having boundaries on a day-to-day basis is as important as taking long breaks away from work
I recognise that taking August off is a luxury and I do feel guilty about having this as an option (back to my beliefs about hard work!). I know that this isn’t an option for everyone, but I do believe that we all need time away from work. My summer break brought many benefits to my mindset, time with my boys, and my health (my step count rocketed in August).
But what if a long summer break isn’t an option for you?
I talk to my clients about protecting their time on a daily basis. Perhaps think about:
When do you first allow work into your world each day?
Is it when you first awaken in the morning – opening one eye to check your phone, is it before you’ve showered as you check your emails, or do you start emailing colleagues before you’re dressed?
When are you available for work? Is it 24/7 or is it 9-6pm Monday to Friday?
Who knows your professional boundaries?
Having time for yourself (and those close to you) daily without work as a distraction feels like a basic human right but not one that we always uphold for ourselves!
5. I should switch off social media more often
Like many people I have a love / hate relationship with social media. It can be a force for good, a way to connect and inspiring but equally I feel a certain pressure to post and to create new stuff all the time. There needs to be a balance and perhaps more regular switch offs. I’m off to research a digital detox and will follow-up with a future blog on how to do this if you want to try along with me.
If you were able to switch off over the summer and now feel like your head and notebook are full….
Now it’s time to turn those summer ideas into goals and those goals into a tangible plan.
Here’s a quick set of reflective questions to get those thoughts before they are lost to the day-to-day grind…
Start by getting all your thoughts onto a page – ideas, ramblings, follow-ups, new projects, to-dos, and reflections. Better out than in!
Start grouping them into themes that make sense to you – which ideas are connected? What are the themes? For example, do your ideas relate to you having some quiet time for research or are they focused on improving your wellbeing and stress levels. What can you learn from these themes?
Think about what SPECIFICALLY you would like to have achieved by Christmas, at work, in your business or your life
What would me make feel like I’ve had a productive and fulfilling last 3 months of 2021?
Which ideas are distracting and not for you, right now?
What information, knowledge, resources, help do you need to put your plans into action?
What might derail your plan? What actions could you put into place to mitigate these risks?
Finally, let me know how your summer was....
 Bruce Daisley, “The Joy of Work – 30 ways to fix your work culture and fall in love with your job again”, 2019, Random House Business Books.