The Necessity of Taking a REAL Break During the Holidays (for the sake of your productivity)

Ask anyone if they are taking time off for the holidays, and they’ll look at you like you have two heads.

 “Of course!” they’ll say, “You?” “Of course!” you’ll say and you’ll smile and go on about your business. And by business, I mean you will walk away and get back to work. For leaders, small business owners, and entrepreneurs, the holidays can be an especially difficult time to actually unplug and be present. However, stepping away from work and allowing ourselves to recharge is not just beneficial; it’s necessary for our productivity and success in the New Year.

Taking a real break is essential for recharging our mental and physical batteries. Continuous work without adequate rest leads to burnout, a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that significantly hampers productivity. A proper holiday break allows our minds and bodies to rest, reset, recharge, and return to work with renewed energy and a fresh perspective, crucial for tackling new challenges and goals.

A break from work provides much-needed mental distance, which can foster creativity and problem-solving. It’s often during times of relaxation and disconnection from our daily tasks that we find innovative solutions to ongoing problems or come up with new ideas. This mental distance can be a powerful tool for future planning and strategizing.

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and personal relationships. Taking a true break allows us to be fully present with our loved ones, strengthening these important bonds. Strong personal relationships provide emotional support and stability, which are key components of a productive and balanced professional life.

For many professionals, especially those in leadership positions or running their own businesses, disconnecting from work is easier said than done. The fear of missing out on important decisions, losing control over ongoing projects, or simply the habit of constantly checking emails and messages can make it difficult to truly switch off.

Entrepreneurs, in particular, often struggle with taking breaks. Their business is not just a job; it’s a personal passion, and stepping away can feel like leaving a part of themselves behind. The responsibility of keeping the business afloat and driving it towards success can weigh heavily, making it hard to justify a complete break. There is also a temptation to “use the time off” to make progress in your business – especially if your entrepreneurial venture is still a side hustle.

Leaders might feel that their constant presence is necessary for the smooth functioning of their teams or organization. There’s a concern that their absence might lead to chaos or missed opportunities. This sense of responsibility and accountability can make it challenging for them to disengage and enjoy a stress-free holiday.

Combatting these challenges requires a conscious effort to cultivate a culture of rest within the professional environment. This means recognizing the importance of breaks for long-term productivity and openly encouraging them – not just for oneself but for your entire team or organization.

Setting clear boundaries and entrusting responsibilities to others are critical steps in ensuring that you can take a real break. Effective delegation not only empowers other team members but also builds a support system that allows for a more comfortable disconnection from work.

Focusing on the present moment and embracing the joy and relaxation that the holiday season brings can help in shutting off the constant background noise of work-related thoughts. This might involve consciously setting aside digital devices, practicing mindfulness, or engaging in activities that fully capture your attention and bring joy. Here are 3 practical tips, along with a potential pitfall and a way to overcome it, to help you TRULY unplug this holiday season:

1. Establish Digital Boundaries

Tip: Create a ‘No-Work Zone’ in terms of time and space during the holiday break. Set specific hours during which you will not check work emails or take calls, and designate a physical space in your home as a work-free area. Communicate these boundaries to your colleagues and family to ensure they are respected.

Pitfall: The urge to ‘just quickly check’ emails or messages can be strong, especially when you’re used to being constantly connected.

Overcoming the Pitfall: Turn off work-related notifications on your phone and computer. If necessary, delete or log out of work apps from your devices during your designated no-work times. Replace the urge to check work messages with a positive activity that engages you, like a family game or a personal hobby.

2. Practice Mindful Engagement

Tip: Engage in mindful activities with your family and loved ones that require your full attention and presence. This could be anything from a board game night, cooking a meal together, or outdoor activities like hiking. The key is to choose activities that are absorbing and enjoyable, leaving little room for your mind to wander back to work-related thoughts.

Pitfall: Thoughts about work responsibilities or unfinished tasks may intrude during these activities, distracting you from being fully present.

Overcoming the Pitfall: Practice mindfulness. When you notice work thoughts creeping in, gently acknowledge them and then bring your focus back to the present moment and the activity at hand. Mindfulness takes practice, so be patient and persistent.

3. Schedule Relaxation and Self-Care Activities

Tip: Actively schedule time for relaxation and self-care activities that you enjoy and find relaxing, such as reading, yoga, or a spa day. Treat these activities with the same importance as a business meeting – they are appointments with yourself that should not be missed or rescheduled.

Pitfall: Feeling guilty for taking time for yourself, especially when there’s a lot of work to be done.

Overcoming the Pitfall: Recognize that self-care is not a luxury, but a necessity for your mental and physical well-being. Remind yourself that taking this time will actually make you more productive and effective when you return to work. If guilt persists, consider scheduling these activities during times when they would least impact your work or family obligations.

Implementing these tips requires intention and discipline, but the benefits of truly disconnecting and recharging are immense, not just for you but for your loved ones as well. The holiday season is a perfect opportunity to start this practice, setting a precedent for a healthier work-life balance in the New Year.

A true break during the holidays is not just a nicety; it’s a necessity for anyone looking to maintain high levels of productivity and creativity. It provides an opportunity to recharge, fosters mental distance needed for innovation, and strengthens the personal support system crucial for professional success. While it might be challenging for professionals, particularly those of us who are entrepreneurs and leaders, to fully disconnect, doing so sets the stage for a more balanced, productive, and successful New Year.

By acknowledging the importance of rest and actively working to overcome the barriers to disconnection, we can ensure that our holidays are both restful and a stepping stone to future achievements.

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