Taking time off from work is essential to me. Even if I’m highly motivated and love the work, occasional detachment helps me reset. High-performing athletes take breaks from training and competing to recover, so why not high-performing knowledge workers too?
Time off comes in several buckets, and depending on which one I choose, I’ll get a different outcome. Here is how it works for me.
Up to one week
Anything up to one week is great if I want or need to do something and not feel I am behind when I get back. Two simple and common examples are an extra day or two next to a weekend to take a trip or finish some household tasks. It extends to a week of time off because I’m in the same mindset.
Two weeks is when real rest starts for me. The first week is always catching up on things I needed to do and people I wanted to call or meet. Those activities usually subside by day five or six, and then I can focus on things that are not urgent but important or fun. The best thing is that work doesn’t start for another week, so I’m not stressed with, “Wait, Monday is tomorrow?!”
If I can plan it and make it work, two weeks of time off is my default length.
Three weeks is when the magic happens because I experience boredom. It’s fleeting but indispensable, like a spark that lights up new ideas. I’m way past things I need to do, I am wholly detached from work, and I still have some time to go. It’s when I start digging deeper and reading more obscure things I never thought I would have time to do. I develop ideas and create art or technology. I always feel like I could continue this forever; I probably could.
The hardest part of returning to work after three weeks is that there won’t be enough time to continue in the same capacity. Whatever ideas I came up with in that last week will take months or years to develop further, and sometimes that will never happen.
Four weeks and more
This is unknown territory for me. The only time I took that much time off was as a part of parental leave after the birth of the baby. If you had a chance to experience it, you know it’s not a moment for rest and ideation but for trying to get some sleep and not make too many mistakes.