I’ve just taken a much needed break, 10 days off from work as my family visited from France. I’ve been on a week-end away by the sea, and also took many long leisurely exploratory walks in new areas with my family and my puppy.
In the past, I found returning to work after a break stressful, because of the change in pace, and of the accumulation of messages and tasks whilst I was away. I want to share some simple things I do to make returning to work less stressful for myself:
Before the break
I plan my breaks weeks if not months in advance. This way I can plan my work as best as possible around the break, to make sure that I can truly avoid doing work (and also avoid feeling guilty avoid not doing work) whilst on my break. In a previous blog I explained the importance of truly switching off as a solopreneur. This way I also know what my actual capacity is around the time of my break, and avoid overplanning a level of tasks that aren’t achievable. This goes a long way in building confidence, being realistic about what I can achieve, and avoiding guilt.
Planning ahead also means that I sometimes do more work in advance, to make sure that there aren’t major tasks needing to be done during my break and to be able to truly relax. This also means that my income can cope with the break. When you work for yourself, you don’t earn money whilst on holiday and it can be difficult if your income is tight. This time, knowing that my income had recently suffered from a fallow month, I decided to launch a new online course, to be completed prior to my break, in order to feel content and secure in taking my well deserved holiday. It also gave me a much needed deadline to complete the course by, which really helped me finish the course on time (I literally finished it the day my family arrived from France).
During the break
I make a conscious decision not to attend to anything work wise unless it 1) truly cannot wait 2) It gives me joy and I don’t resent it. This is especially important as, over the last couple of years, I’ve not often been away from home during breaks, and I made the mistake to carry on working, albeit at a lower pace, and didn’t feel refreshed at all by the end of the break.
I’ve learnt over and over that stepping out of work completely and adopting a different, more relaxed schedule, is a great source of creativity for me.
After the break
Be gentle with yourself. After a change of rhythm it can take a few days before you feel like you are back into the swing of things, and with the added accumulated unanswered messages and tasks, it can feel quite stressful and overwhelming too.
Allow extra time for planning. It is easy to try and get back into ‘doing’ and losing sight of what is really important. Tune in first in how you want your month or week or day to feel rather than getting bogged down into lots of tiny little tasks. I find the 3 things model very helpful. When feeling overwhelmed, ask yourself, if I could only do 3 things, what would these things be? Apply the same model for longer term planning as well as shorter term (I do a 3 months, then a monthly, then weekly and daily plan).
I tend to give myself at least 2 or 3 days of taking it easy, of mostly doing some planning and dealing with the stuff that accumulated whilst I was away. I try to ease back gently into my normal work rhythm, at a slower pace than normal. I like to think about it the same way I look at physical fitness: if you had taken a break from running for a couple of weeks, you would start your training gradually again, and not expect to be able to run a full marathon on the first day!
I hope this helps you be kind to yourself, and ease your back from holiday overwhelm. I would love to hear if you have any other tips or suggestions.