Have you ever been trying to enjoy your time off work, only to feel like you are cheating? If you have, that is actually a good thing. Here is why, and how to overcome that feeling.
You finally have the time to take a day off from work. You sleep a little longer than you normally do, eat breakfast and are looking forward to a well deserved day of relaxation.
As you get comfortable in your favorite chair, a feeling of unease hits you. You should be working. You try to push the thought away as you pick up a magazine you have been wanting to read for a few days, but you haven’t had the time, not until now. After making it all the way to page five, you are wondering if you should at least check your email.
Deep down, you know that you both deserve and need a day off. Why do you then feel that you are doing something wrong?
The knowledge worker’s challenge
Unless you are manning a reception, working in a store, or anything else that requires you to be physically at a given location to do your work, you may fall into the category called knowledge workers. As a knowledge worker, you are paid to apply your knowledge to what you are working on. There is a lot of definitions of the term knowledge worker. My personal favorite is from Merlin Mann:
“A knowledge worker is a person that adds value to information.”
Being a knowledge worker is both a blessing and a curse. Since you can do most of the work in your head, it can be done from anywhere. Sure, you need a computer or phone to communicate with colleagues and customers, but in essence, you could be working from anywhere with electricity and WIFI.
This is also a curse. This means that it’s easy to never completely leave work. You find yourself checking email while waiting for your friend to arrive. You are pondering the budget before you fall asleep and in the shower in the morning.
What does your employer pay you to do?
It is easy being busy, especially if you have been working in the same place for a long time. There might be a gap between your core function and area of responsibility and what you are filling most of your day with. This might be OK if you are handling your core responsibilities, but if you are behind
Having a bad consciousness is not only negative
The fact that you are reading this because you recognize that you sometimes have a bad consciousness when trying to enjoy your time off work sets you apart from many of your colleagues. There are a very high number of people who try to get away with doing as little as possible. In that perspective, having trouble with enjoying downtime is a sign of work ethic and commitment.
How to enjoy your time off work
You cannot enjoy time off work unless you are able to relax. You cannot relax without knowing that you have done all the important stuff. It is not possible to be sure that you have done all the important stuff if you do not keep track of your commitments, responsibilities, projects and next actions.
“Your ability to generate power is directly proportional to your ability to relax.”
You need to start by keeping track of your commitments. This is where GTD comes in. A
With well-organized lists and projects, smartly defined next actions and a well structured weekly review, you are able to stay on top of your commitments and leave work knowing that you have dealt with the most important stuff. There is no doubt that GTD has helped me, not only to get more productive at work but also to be better able to relax and enjoy my vacations.
The long-term effect of being in control, of being apropreatly engaged in the essential stuff, and being able to relax at regular intervals has been an eye-opener for me, as outlined in the above blog post.
Prepare for your downtime
I have earlier written about how you should prepare for your vacation ahead of time so that you minimize the chance of having to work when you should have time off.
Here are a few tricks to make it easier to get back to work after some deserved downtime.