As my family is completing the count down to Spring Break and my children are plotting the ways they’ll fill their days away from school, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of “a day off” in our modern era. The whole practice seems to have changed dramatically in the last 40 years.
Gone are the days of a two week vacation during which we completely unplug and return to a small pile of things requiring our signature. Instead, we catch snippets of time here and there and call it a break if we only take two conference calls a day and keep up with email during our week at the beach.
So I’m wondering…
And what does the phrase “Day Off” even mean these days?
If you’re like most of the people I’ve asked, you:
1) can’t remember the last real vacation day you took, and
2) can’t imagine how you’d actually be able to take one
The idea of time off almost feels scary to us today. It makes us nervous to think about being completely unplugged. What would we miss if we were truly checked out? What would people think of us?
While the benefits of this true time off are many, and while I’ll continue to advocate for it, some of us may need to baby step our way in that direction. If so, here are five creative ways to get started.
Five Creative Ways to Take a Day Off
1) A No Schedule Day
Simply unstructuring your time can go a long way toward building “time off” muscle. If you choose to do a little project here and there, no worries. The key to this experiment is to operate without a schedule to see how it feels. Wake up without a plan and resist the urge to write one. Follow your heart through the day, doing whatever feels right in that moment. This shift out of structure can be a welcome break from the daily grind.
2) A No Email Day
You can do it. Really. Set an “out of office” notice if you must, but try going a whole day without reading, writing, or responding to an email. Remove the app from your phone (temporarily) if it helps you stick to it. You’ll likely be shocked by how often you reflexively check email – not being able to do so will shed some light on the significance of this habit and help you think about whether you’d benefit from more permanent changes.
3) A No Housework Day
Most of us spend our weekends catching up on housework and errands, so while this may sound attractive, it may be more difficult than you think. Letting the dishes pile up, the laundry go undone, the bills sit unpaid, and the floor remain unswept may make you twitch, but doing so will free up time for whatever it is you really want to do with your time. Take a break from your never-ending list of chores and give yourself some time to play.
4) A No Errands Day
Take a day to hunker down at home, or to spend the afternoon at the park, or to go see a movie. Just resist the urge to squeeze in a trip to Target, or to pick up the drycleaning, or to make a bank deposit, or to return your library books. Leave those errands for another day so you can spend the day doing things that are blissfully unproductive but restorative to your spirit.
5) A No Devices Day
I purposely saved this one for last because it may actually be the most challenging! You’ll be without all social media, without the ability to Google a question, without GPS, without your phone, without texting, without email. During this digital detox, you’re basically off the grid. But what WILL you have? Uninterrupted time with the people you love or time to spend all by yourself! Time to think, to talk, to play. When you give yourself a day without your devices, you may be surprised to discover what you’ve been missing when you spend all day connected.
Use these ideas as warm-up exercises to prepare yourself for some even more substantial time off. When you realize you can survive being unproductive or disconnected, you’ll be far more likely to do it.
And when you do take some time off, guess what will likely happen….
Your relationships will thrive. Your creativity will blossom. Your clarity of thinking will improve. Your sense of well-being will increase.