Calling out to all email addicts, social media moguls, Teams meeting Tzars and serial phone callers! Have you spent this year working seemingly longer hours or finding work slipping into your relaxation time? A trait we are somewhat all guilty of at some point or another is not knowing how or when to truly switch off. 
 
Working whilst you are meant to be relaxing can affect all aspects of your life, from interpersonal relationships to your physical and mental health. So much so in fact, that in May 2019, the WHO (World Health Organisation) determined that time out from business is absolutely crucial in preventing work related burn out. When you consider that the above statement was written long before an unexpected pandemic which has seen large swathes of us work from home for longer and under more pressure, then the importance of its core message really hit home. 
 
So as Christmas approaches us at what seems like a lightning speed in comparison to the rest of the year, we thought it would be a great time to talk about taking a break over the holiday period and how to ensure that you manage to do this successfully. 
 
Turn panic into positivity. 
 
For some of us, the mere thought of taking time off instils panic into our hearts. What if something goes wrong? What if I miss out on an opportunity? What if my customers expect me to be there? It’s almost as if we expect everything to go wrong the very moment we turn away. 
 
In reality this is the thing that most hinders us from really taking time off work, so perhaps it’s time we adjusted our attitude towards time off in the first place? Instead of focussing on the negatives, lets look at all of the positive things we will gain from being well rested. 
 
You’re never going to avoid a fuller inbox come January but at least after some well-deserved rest you can come back better, stronger, and ready to face the new year head on. 
 
Manage their expectations. 
 
Much of the preventable panic around taking time off comes from the fear that you will be failing to meet someone else’s expectation – so nip that in the bud and cut yourself some slack. 
 
Ensure that you make sure your colleagues and clients know when and how long you are away for and provide them with deadlines for work completion before you leave. If you have a website or social media page, then include this information in banners or pinned posts at least 1 week beforehand. By giving them adequate notice, you’re allowing them the freedom to make plans for their own time also. 
 
Set your email out of office, telephone voicemails and social media account replies to clearly state when you are off and when you will be returning to work so that anyone who does contact you is given all of the correct information and knows what to expect. 
 
Schedule and automate where possible. 
 
Thanks to modern technology there is a whole heap of solutions for automating tasks on a short-term basis to allow us to take time away. If there is something vital that needs doing during the period you had scheduled for downtime then investigate ways of automating this beforehand. 
 
Social media posts can be scheduled using apps such as Hootsuite and many others, allowing you to maintain a social media presence whilst being present in your own family on Christmas day. Calendar and meeting invites can be managed with apps such as Calendly without you having to approve things adhoc and auto email clients can send out newsletters at specified times. 
 
If all else fails and you still feel that automation is not enough then you could even look to hiring virtual PA services or similar, to manage your media for you. A small cost for a large personal gain. 
 
Step away from the smartphone. 
 
Perhaps the worst offender when it comes to dragging us back into work mode, the mobile phone. Did you know that on average we pick up our phones around 70-100 times per day? An unfortunate side effect of modern technology that, with the seemingly never-ending stream of notifications and phone pings, is difficult to break. 
 
Of course, if you have a separate work device then this is a simple problem to deal with. Set all of those out of offices and then turn it off and lock it away until your vacation is over. Problem solved! 
 
How do you separate work and relaxation when your work device is your main device though? Settings! Settings! Settings! Most of the apps we now use, especially those designed for the business world such as Outlook, Teams, 365 etc all have time management settings that allow you to designate away time from business. If there isn’t a specific function, then there is always the option to simply turn off notifications for an app meaning that you should be able to take time out without constantly being nudged by emails. 
 
Take some time before your break to get to grips with what notifications you’re getting and what options you have for stopping them so that you can effectively switch off from the professional side of your smartphone. 
 
Plan your return. 
 
No vacation is ever going to be effective if you immediately throw yourself back into work full throttle. 
 
Be realistic about what those first few days back will look like. Will you have an overflowing inbox? Will you need to catch up on orders? Will you need to dedicate time to a specific project? Perhaps you might just want a couple of slower days to ease you back in or allow you to spend a little more quality time with loved ones. 
 
However you choose to come back and whatever the reason, again ensure it is communicated clearly in advance and that way you will be able to glide back into work without undoing all of the benefits of taking the holiday in the first place. 
 
It’s been a long and strange year, for all of us and if there was ever a specific year to take time out then it has been this one. Some of us will be looking forward to seeing loved ones for the first time in a while, some of us might just be looking forward to having focussed time with those closer to home, it doesn’t matter what our plans look like – all that is important is that we make it count. 
 
If there is one piece of advice we can give around the subject of taking time out from work, it is to remember that not one person has ever been remembered for how quickly they replied to an email or for their ability to complete work projects on Christmas morning. You deserve time off as does everyone else that works alongside you and all of the clients you cater to. 
 
We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and look forward to working towards those 2021 goals together. If you think Pink Spaghetti can help with any of your goals for next year, then you can visit here to find your local team and start planning today. 
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