‘Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes… Including you.’ Anne Lamott

With the holiday season looming this is the time of year that we should be slowing down, and yet for many of us we can be busier than ever. Christmas shopping, work dinners, projects that must be finished before the 24th…. The busier we are, the more important it is to unplug and step away from your desk/laptop/iPad/iPhone. For many people that feels counter-intuitive and they try and push through, working even harder and longer hours.

The thing is, most of us wouldn’t hesitate to take a break after an hour or so of physical exercise, and most people with a regular exercise routine know the value of having a rest day as part of their schedule. But what about mental breaks? Many people don’t consider the mental fatigue that they are experiencing in any given day or over a period of time and the impact that is having on their stress levels, performance and productivity. The fact is, the more hours you work, and particularly the more hours you work without a break, the less you will actually achieve. If you don’t believe me, there was a study undertaken by John Pencavel of Stanford University in April 2014 on The Productivity of Working Hours that confirms this.

These days technology allows us to work from anywhere at any time. Which can be great (I love working from home). The idea is that this gives us flexibility and choices around where and when we work. Unfortunately, this also has a flip-side, which means many people are connected to their work (and not necessarily to their goals) every waking moment. This means they never really switch off and take a break. Naturally this continued mode of being ‘on’ is not good for stress levels and can actually reduce productivity and leave us too mentally fatigued to focus on our goals. While many people feel that there is an expectation that they are and can be available anytime, regretfully for many of us, we have actually created this expectation all by ourselves. We just don’t realise that we did this and think it has been caused by our manager, our industry or technology. This state of being constantly available ends up creating more ‘work’ and giving us less time to take a break and truly switch off and recharge.

Are you planning on unplugging over Christmas and using that annual leave you have accrued? According to a 2015 Roy Morgan Research study, 28 percent of full-time Australian workers had more than five weeks’ annual leave accrued. Take a break people! I often have people say to me that they are too busy to take a holiday or even a short break. That genuinely makes me feel very sad. The only reason these people think they are too busy to take a holiday is because that is the story they are telling themselves. Look, how many of us work in such critical and specialised job functions or roles, where if we took a long weekend or, heaven forbid, a week’s holiday, the organisation or business would completely collapse without us? Sorry, not sorry, but if you were to get hit by a bus, the organisation would somehow manage to struggle on without you. You are replaceable. Someone else can fill in for a day or a week. And if there is really no-one else who can do your job, then some serious consideration needs to be given to either a succession planning strategy, or, if you own your own business, how you can set up systems or processes that allow you to step away for a few days.

These days I schedule a minimum of two holidays where I either leave the state or the country and at least one long weekend break a year. I run my own business and do not employee other people, so there is no-one to step in and do the work while I am away. My strategy? I plan the holidays in advance, book them in my calendar and then let all my clients know when I won’t be available. So far this has not been the slightest bit detrimental to my business and it has enabled me to live the work life balance I want for my family.

In the spirit of taking a unplugging, this will be my last blog post until early February 2018. I will be taking a break over Christmas and New Year and then taking my daughter on a holiday around the Pacific Islands in late January.

Have a wonderful Christmas. I trust you will truly enjoy spending time with your loved ones and I wish you a re-energised start to 2018.

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