Breaks from work are good for you.
This is an important message to share in a society that has lionized work as a virtue for so many years. Even back in 1932, famed philosopher Bertrand Russell felt moved to write in praise of idleness. Today, we are still pushed to always be grinding and hustling.
Yet many studies have shown that downtime is essential for a healthy and functioning brain. Your brain functions best with some rest away from work and some time to stretch and be creative. But as the lines between work and personal life continue to blur, it becomes more and more difficult to truly have time away from work.
There is a theory known as Parkinson’s Law which states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion." In short, if you don’t carve out some time to not work, you will always be working. If you are constantly checking work email on your day off, you never really get the chance to relax. And if you never allow yourself to relax 100%, you’ll never be focused on work 100% either. You end up in a multi-tasking limbo, never able to fully relax because you are still doing some work, but never fully able to focus on work because your brain wants a break.
The solution is to invest yourself in your relaxation. Here are a few ways to get the most out of your time off:
- Treat your enjoyment as an activity. Don’t think of your weekend as empty time to be at the beck and call of whatever pops up at you. Just as you might shut out distractions to focus on working, you should shut out distractions to focus on enjoying your time off.
- Avoid push-content and stick to pull-content. In other words, don’t just watch whatever’s on TV, or scroll mindlessly through social media. Be intentional with your leisure, watch a specific thing because you want to watch it, or reconnect with a specific friend because you want to be in touch with them.
- Make a plan. Making a plan for your weekend ahead of time will also help you get the most out of your time off. A good plan involves 2-3 things you want to enjoy per day, such as going for a bike ride, going out for dinner with friends, or reading a book. Ideally these will be things of different types, rather than all media-related plans or all food-related plans. A varied schedule will help keep the day from slipping by too fast.
- Don’t overschedule yourself. Having a plan of things to look forward to is great. But just is important is the fact that you leave lots of time open. After all, this is your time to relax.
- Refocus on your priorities. It’s easy to get caught up with chores and to-do lists during the week, but days off are an opportunity to set time aside for what really matters to you, whether that means spending quality time with loved ones, or producing something creative that engages your mind.