This past holiday season, Christmas and New Year’s both fell on weekends. In the midst of this holiday sandwich was an entire week filled with time that didn’t really feel like time. It was celebration season, but not really. Most people still had to work the full week. Yet school was still out of session.
Seeing an opportunity — and having failed to take a vacation throughout the entirety of 2016 — I decided to take an entire week off from work.
Here’s what I accomplished that week:
- Watched: YouTube and several seasons of Grey’s Anatomy
- Read: Multiple books from cover to cover
- Played: 100+ hours’ worth of games on Steam
- Wrote: Nothing.
In other words, I accomplished virtually nothing. And it was one of the most fulfilling weeks of my entire year. If we’re talking about self-care, anyway.
If I hadn’t actively made the decision to scheduled this time off, I never would have let myself relax. I would have continued to work 50+ hours that week, plus blog posts, plus working on my novel(s) and planning out future projects.
Instead, I just decided I could afford not to earn a paycheck for that week. (Welcome to the wonderful world of freelancing — PTO not included!) I doubled up on blog posts every day and scheduled far enough ahead to allow me time off from this, too. I set my books aside. And I decided “planning ahead” could wait until January.
These were not easy decisions for me. I work too much, and always will, because it makes me feel good. Not working, even when I’m just relaxing, sometimes does not feel good. I’ve gotten better at making time for setting work aside. But after awhile, working a lot, so many weeks in a row … it wears you down.
I don’t know when I’m going to be able to schedule my next vacation, since I just started a new job this spring. But I do want to start incorporating more “scheduled time off” on weekends — since (oops) I’ve gotten into the habit of working during those again.
If you’re like me, and taking extended breaks from writing (or working in general) is absolute torture, I encourage you to schedule vacation time like you would any other task on your to-do list. You will benefit from it — and enjoy it — much more than you think you will.
Watching TV, reading, gaming — these things won’t necessarily advance your career. Not directly, anyway. But they aren’t supposed to. We’re not built to work all the time. This is still a lesson I’m forced to learn over and over again. Rest is essential. Yes, there will be periods of time when you’re fighting as hard as you can to pull ahead of the pack. I get that. I’ve been there.
But I think it’s also important to balance out those workathons with breakathons. It’s not lazy and it’s not wasted time. I came back from that week-long do-nothing-at-all session feeling refreshed and prepared to tackle 2017 with more energy and motivation than I would have had if I would have kept working.
Do it. Take a day, a week — step away from it all. Come back to your writing with a fresh perspective. Set new goals. Give yourself the time off you deserve. Work hard. Play hard. You’ll be much better off for it.
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.