It's probably time to take a break

After a couple of years in the industry you realise that you will burnout if you carry on working hell for leather, all year round, year after year. Next comes the ability to pick up on the little signs that indicate that you might need a break.

For me those signs are that I’m often tired but struggle to sleep, unable to focus for long stretches but equally find it hard to shut off from work. There are many other signs and eventually you learn to spot the ones that are affecting you.

I’d been feeling like that for a little while but luckily had a 2 week holiday away which I’ve recently finished and feel much better for.

This was the first time that I’ve had a block of 2 weeks away from work and I was keen to try and make the most of that by ideally, switching off completely but that is always much easier said than done. I made a conscience effort to think about what I wanted from my time away and how I could best achieve that.

Trying to reset

Time away from the computer

My working day is coding, emails, documents and meetings; 95% of which is spent in front of a screen. Like a lot of people, when I’m commuting or on the sofa spend more time on my phone reading articles, interacting on Twitter etc. This holiday was a good excuse to take a break from all that.

I’m not overly sure I accomplished this too well if I’m honest. I still spent a fair amount of time on the phone catching up on articles saved in my Pocket list (oh, the shame of that list piling up…) and checking Twitter, but I did manage to not work for the whole holiday (except for the odd checking of emails every few days).

Spend time with my partner

Due to London living and both of us working extra hours it can often feel like my partner and I don’t really spend all that much time together despite the fact that we live together. I imagine this is a fairly typical feeling for most working couples; even more so if you also have young children (we don’t).

We try to carve out time for each other but the importance of this can sometimes be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of life. Now all of a sudden we had 2 weeks all to ourselves, the value of which can’t be under estimated.

Helping to switch off

No work notifications

A slightly worrisome thought at first but I decided that I would turn off all notifications that would drag me back into the work thought-bubble. This meant removing my work emails from my phone, setting do not disturb on multiple Slack workspaces and also muting a certain WhatsApp group.

By not having these notifications it meant that I was in control. Control of if and when I wanted to dip back into work rather than be rudely dragged back in at anytime. That’s quite an odd feeling at first, not knowing if something requires your attention but it also give you the power over your time and attention. It allows you to focus on spending time with the people you’re with and actually enjoying your holiday!

Plan to be uncontactable

Part of being confident enough to switch off all your work notifications is having planned to be out of the office. Ensure your team members know you’re going away whilst giving them the means to resolve any issues in your absence. Likewise with clients, if people don’t know you’re away they will continue to get in touch as they always have. Setting the expectations that some work will have to wait until you return is absolutely fine; and when it’s not, ensure there is someone else who can step into your role while you’re away.

For those projects that really cannot wait or be delegated to someone else, you can always give pass over your mobile number to those you trust will only use it if absolutely needed. It’s important to set the expectations here that it really is only a fail safe - chances are no one will call you but it helps to ease your mind whilst also keeping confidence for clients and your team.

Context switch

By this I mean make a change from the norm. Try not to just sit at home and watch TV like you might on the weekends, try not to sit at a different computer to the one at work; instead do something different. Whether that is simply planning to go to try that new coffee shop (or pub!) or if it’s a full blown holiday abroad; you’ll find the context switch really helps.

Back to work

The above worked for me and I felt like I was able to switch off and take the break I craved but of course everyone is different and it’s important to find the way that works for you. I find that time away from the usual humm drum helps my mind to wander and breathe. Suddenly ideas arrive again and I find I’ve different viewpoints on existing topics, this undoubtedly helps me when I get back to work feeling refreshed and ready to get stuck in.

Feeling tired and starting to recognise signs of burnout? Take a break. It’s important.

Richard Ballard

Richard Ballard

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