I recently booked a 2-week break with my husband to recharge and relax. We were limited to local destinations given the Coronavirus restrictions but still managed to find a beautiful houseboat on a lake for the first week and a house in the forest for the second week.
Then… I ruined it…
Given my experience and specialisation – guiding people on how to use extended breaks from work (like sabbaticals) to recharge and grow, you’d think I could get this stuff right. But no. I fell victim all the classic pitfalls I warn my clients to avoid. And it was so easy for me to do!
I ruined my chance to recharge.
I broke all the rules in the Recharge Model for getting the most value out of your time off. The Recharge Model is simple enough to follow:
- Relax – do activities you find relaxing
- Control – ensure you have control of your schedule and activities
- Nourish – your body, mind and soul
- Detach – disconnect from work
So here’s how I screwed it all up…. In four easy steps for you to NOT follow!
Step 1 – Don’t detach from work
In the lead up to my holiday, I kicked off a new client project and due to some tight timelines, I knew it would be easier if I just did some work to keep things moving along while I was away. A meeting here, a few hours there… sitting on a houseboat on a lake… it would be relaxing right?
Each day I had a client meeting or needed to do some work, I woke up dreading it. And I usually love my work! Even though I wasn’t working full days, in my non-work hours, I wasn’t recharging. I still felt exhausted. Staying connected, even for part of the time was basically the same effect as working full time at home. It totally usurped my recharge.
Step 2 – Forget to nourish your body, mind and soul
I totally forgot to nourish my body. I was out of my routine so I wasn’t doing the basic things like drinking enough water or eating enough fruit. Even I was surprised when I realised I wasn’t meditating as much. I was overlooking the most beautiful lake! You can get more mediative than that! What the hell was wrong with me?
Step 3 – Do things that aren’t relaxing
I also did all the classic relax mistakes. I wasn’t doing things that are actually relaxing for me. When I wasn’t working, I was just doing things that weren’t work related. It’s not the same! It was during the horrible cliff hanger US election results, so I found myself spiralling into constantly refreshing the live news feeds, cursing Pennsylvania for taking so long – Not Relaxing! One day I inexplicably ended up in a “Big Bang Theory” Netflix vortex – I don’t even really like that show! What was I doing!?!
Step 4 – Give up control of your day
I did have control over what I could decide to do in my non-work hours, but I still had work to do. I didn’t have total control. All I could do was fit activities around my work commitments – It’s just not the same as total control. I was getting no recharge from it.
What was the effect?
What was amazing to me was the effect it had on me. I really thought that working part of the time would still allow me to recharge part of the time, but it just didn’t happen. I still felt exhausted, a little on edge, unsatisfied and ultimately disappointed that I wasn’t recharging. Mostly, it was the guilt. When I wasn’t working, there was always a voice in my head saying, “you could be using this time to work on the project”, “you’re being lazy”. In all my years of training and reflection these inner critic voices still come loud and clear to me and I’m not always able to control them. I’m better these days, but it still requires work and I wasn’t winning the battle.
How did I fix it?
Luckily – I have the models, research and knowledge to at least know what I was doing wrong. I knew what I needed to do to fix it. But paradoxically, it wasn’t me that fixed it. It was my client. For some completely unrelated reasons, there were some delays that put work on hold for a week. I bounded out of the room where I’d been having the virtual meeting, beaming ear to ear, so happy my project was delayed, and I could reclaim my break. I could finally do what I should have done in the first place – take a real break!
Let’s put aside the pandora’s box of me not being able to give myself permission to say no to a client and take a break – That in itself is an entirely different subject for reflection!
What I knew I needed now was to double down on the Recharge Model. By this stage in our 2-week break, I had a few more days in the houseboat on the lake, then a week in a beautiful forest house! I wasn’t going to let this slip through my fingers. I was going to get every last drop of relaxation and recharge out of what was left of this break.
I’m pleased to say that for that remaining time – I didn’t open my laptop once. I stopped watching the news and scrolling social media and I didn't watch TV.
Days stretched out into blissful relaxation...
We went walking in the beautiful autumnally coloured forest
We cooked delicious food
I sat knitting by the fireplace, listening to audio books
Took long outdoor hot tub soaks in the evening watching shooting stars overhead
Did even more reading
We went for a bike ride exploring nearby villages
We took drives the long way around
I finally felt recharged.
What did I learn?
It’s surprisingly easy to ruin your holiday recharge. You may think that by just taking a call here, or shooting off an email there, it won’t affect much. But it really does. The recharge value you get from fully detaching from work has probably the strongest correlation. The relationship is not linear. And yet, that’s the one we give up so easily. By even opening your email or taking a call, you put yourself back to day one of your holiday, negating all the recharge you’ve built up.
So – guard your time off like your life depends on it. Then boost it with all the elements of the Recharge Model. Because no one will look out for your wellbeing, except you. And in this crazy year – your life really may depend on it.
Beyond a Break exists to help people and companies use the power of time off to boost wellbeing. Through coaching, workshops and leave programs we're encouraging the world to pause, reflect, recharge and return thriving. For more inspiration check our out latest articles and the Time to Thrive program.