How to make the most of any break

Call it a holiday, a sabbatical, a mini-break, a plain old break – any time you get to be away from your day-to-day is time to be cherished. So how can you ensure that you make the most of the opportunity? We share our tips for maximising any time away from the grind – no matter how short – to come back feeling fresh and ready!

Preparing for the break

No matter how long or short your break – you preparation should be the same. Leaving everything in a state where you can walk away from it is absolutely critical to successfully switching gears, from work to relax mode.

1. Unplug – by whatever means necessary

By far the best thing you can do for yourself is to switch off everything, literally. Possibly you don’t need to throw away your devices, but with a bit of preparation you can get some much-needed time away from the glare and the ping of modern device-heavy life.

Take time to clear out any calendar appointments (so you don’t get the reminders). If it all possible, switch off your devices all the time, or at specific times. Another option is to switch off everything but one device and let select people know how to get you on it. If the device you choose to keep is your phone, turn off all of the utilities you don’t need – push mail, reminders etc.

2. Provide clear instructions for how/when to contact you

Advise everyone of your plans in advance: your colleagues, your friends, your beautician – absolutely anyone who might try to contact you when you don’t really want them to.

In the case of your work colleagues – provide an alternate contact person wherever possible. If it’s absolutely necessary to be available during your break, provide clear instructions for the sort of thing they should contact you for (genuine emergencies only) and respond to contact from one channel only (email or phone). Having to monitor lots of info channels will cut into your break time and is also not going to help with step 1 above.

3. Tie up loose ends (or at least plan to do it after you get back)

The best way to prepare for a holiday and get your mind off the job is to finish up all necessary work. Prioritise those essential tasks and ensure you meet the deadlines before going on leave.

If you can’t finish everything off before you go on a short break – for example, it might not be practical to finalise everything before a long weekend – make sure you have the situation prepared to pick up when you return. The goal here is to make sure you don’t have lingering work commitments on your mind.

4. Plan ahead

Things very rarely go the way you want them to without some kind of planning. Not only does planning ahead of your break mean you’ll have more time to spend chillaxing, it’ll also mean you’re safer if you’re travelling somewhere unfamiliar, you’ll make sure you get to do everything you want to (especially where advance bookings are an essential), and you’ll also get to enjoy the build-up to your break – a vital part of the whole experience itself.

When you think about the fun you’ll be having, you feel much of the same joy the experience itself will bring. If you make sure to plan in advance, the anticipation and joy of looking forward to something is half the fun.

During your break

What kind of activities can you fit into a break of any duration that will get you maximum relaxation, reflection and renewal? Check out some of our suggested additions to your beak below – simple, cheap and easy.

1. Read something

It doesn’t need to be War and Peace – reach for a short story collection or the latest Who Weekly, if that’s more your thing. We already know that reading is a key to success for lots of today’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs, but it also provides lots of excellent health benefits that are particularly beneficial while you’re on holiday.

The myriad benefits of reading as a secret key to relaxation? Reduced stress levels, an easier time getting to sleep and an increase to your life expectancy.

2. Get out into nature

Connecting with nature is proven to make us happier and healthier people. People who get out into the great outdoors report improvements to their physical health, self-esteem and state of mind.

It doesn’t need to be anything arduous – a simple stroll through a local park or trip to the beach can be enough. If you’re looking for a real escape, try to add in some activities that take you right off the beaten track – check out sites like Red Balloon offering lots of outdoor experiences you’ve probably never thought of before.

3. Do the things you enjoy

Keep your mind off work by staying busy with the activities you enjoy. Focusing on things you enjoy is easy to plan for and reduces the risk of wasting a precious shorter break on a new activity that potentially isn’t what you hoped for.

There can be a lot of joy, relaxation and renewal in a trip to Bunnings to finish that planter box you’ve been working on, perfecting that slow cooker recipe, or anything else you enjoy and haven’t got time to really indulge in during your typical working week.

If you do end up trying something new and enjoy it – keep on doing it! Make sure you continue doing it after your break is over (or on the next one!)

After your break

How you return to work after your break determines how long your ‘post-holiday’ vibe will last.

1. Block Some Time Out

Don’t feel tempted to rush straight back into things. Rushing straight back into things is the quickest way to diminish that post-break glow. Give yourself an hour or so to catch up on emails and get back into the swing of things. Be sure to block this time out in your calendar so you’re not interrupted.

2. Leave Your Out-Of-Office On

If you’ve prepared adequately using the instructions earlier hopefully there won’t be a huge pile of things to attend to when you get back – someone may have been looking after them in your absence.

But for everything and everyone that is waiting – leave your automatic email response on while you get back into the swing of things to avoid an influx of requests from colleagues and clients.

3. Manage Your Stress

With the right stress management techniques you can make every day seem more like a holiday (almost). Upon returning to work, adopt stress management techniques to keep that holiday vibe as long as possible and maintain a healthy work/life balance.