Working from home

How to take a break from work over the holidays

Woman in front of fire - how to take a break over the holidays
Image by Oleksandr Pidvalnya from Pixabay

Are you wondering how to take a break from work over the holidays, if you’re super busy and overwhelmed? Are you starting to countdown the weeks and days and wondering if you’ll be taking a break from work at all?

The holiday season is a time for family, friends, festivities or even just such downtime by ourselves (if you’re lucky enough to have that option!). We should be able to switch off and soak into the time off.

But it’s also a time when many of us feel anxious because there seems to be so much to do before we turn that ‘out-of-office’ on for the holidays. The to-do list isn’t shrinking but the holidays are getting closer.

And what if you’re self-employed or work from home? Is it even possible to take a break during the holidays? The answer is yes—and these tips will help you do just that.

1. Start planning

This is different from going overseas on holiday where you may have internet connection issues or be in different time zones (or have understandably upset holiday companions!). When overseas you need to plan for being offline or having limitations.

However, when you’re at home during the holiday period, you may be tempted to work while no-one else is and it’s nice and quiet. Or maybe you’ve got no-one else to hold the fort. But don’t you deserve a break? You need to be disciplined or at least set boundaries.

Start planning as far in advance as you can. What can you drop till after your break? What do you need to rush through in advance if possible?

Prioritise early: look at what’s manageable to achieve before the holidays and what will have to wait. Make actual before and after to-do lists, so you can see it all in print and work your way through what’s possible.

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How to take a break over the holidays

2. Let everyone know

It’s good to give good warning when taking time off so let any key people (clients, readers, suppliers etc.) know in advance. Then they will know how long they’ve got left to ask or expect anything of you. Be clear that you will be fully offline for the holidays, in case they get any ideas.

And remember, most people will be taking time off too, so it really is a great time for you to also take a break. I’ve worked around the holidays before to save my leave days but it was impossible to get hold of anyone anyway!

Hopefully, there will be an expectation that you or your company will be out of action for a while, so take advantage of the quiet time and mutual understanding.

3. Batch and automate

If you have the luxury of planning your work in advance, take advantage of it by batching your work. This means doing similar tasks all at once, which is effective as you are in the flow and able to work faster on that particular task.

This way of working won’t apply to all jobs but if you do anything like content creation, invoicing or marketing, batching could work well. This will give you more time to get a lot done in one go, which will later allow you to relax and enjoy the holidays!

Scheduling work is also a great way to advance prep your work or deliverables, if it’s an option for you. There are lots of apps (see SocialBee) and ways to automate your workflow so do investigate what’s possible for your tasks.

4. Set an Out-of-Office Message

Remember to set an out-of-office message on your email that clearly lets clients, customers and others know that you’re not working or reading emails and when you will be back. This will prevent people from expecting a response from you right away and will help manage their expectations.

You can also set these types of automatic alerts elsewhere, if you will be unable to respond or fulfill orders. For example, it’s perfectly fine to state on your online shop that deliveries will be actioned after the holidays.

5. Lead by example

If you have colleagues that are hesitating to take leave then support each other and discuss ideas on how to take a break from work. Remind them this is about quality time with our friends and family and we want to be fully present with them, not on our phones sending work emails.

If you manage staff, make sure you are reminding them of the importance of taking time off. Set by example, so don’t let them see that you’ve been online or sending emails during the break. Ask others what they’re looking forward to doing and let them know you’ll be having fun with your family or friends.

If your partner or housemate is also worried about taking time off work, both commit to it. By encouraging others in your life to take time off, you’ll hold yourself accountable. It would then be pretty embarrassing if you didn’t stick to your own advice.

Mum and children in the kitchen - How to take a break from work over the holidays
Photo by Hillshire Farm on Unsplash

6. Unplug

One of the best things you can do for yourself during the holidays is to unplug from work completely. This means no checking your email, no working on projects, and no taking client/customer calls.

If you can’t bear the thought of completely disconnecting (or simply can’t if you have your own business) try setting some boundaries for yourself—for example, only allow yourself to check your email twice a day or only work for two hours each day.

This will help you relax and enjoy the holiday season as much as possible without feeling like you’re neglecting your work entirely.

7. Give yourself permission to relax

Quite simply you have to ease up on yourself and allow yourself to have a break. It’s the holiday season and it’s to be enjoyed. How often do you take a decent break anyway? Are you close to burn out already?

Recognise the important benefits of switching off during the holidays:

  • Relaxation and recharge
  • Spending quality time with loved ones
  • Finding time to do activities you never have time for
  • More rest and sleep
  • Enjoying good food, drink and cheesy movies
  • Feeling positive and happy
  • Feeling refreshed and motivated to get back to work after your time off

And read more on your first day back at work after a break for how to prepare for your return.

Final thoughts: How to take a break from work over the holidays

The holiday season is a wonderful but hectic time of year. If you’re self-employed or work from home, it can be especially challenging to find balance during this time. The above tips should support you in how to take a break from work over the holidays.

By planning, batching your work, communicating well, setting an out-of-office message and allowing yourself to relax, you can make the most of this festive time and not obsess about work.

If you’re hoping to go beyond time off and take a proper trip, read how to take a holiday when you’re too busy at work. You don’t want to be running for the plane while checking emails or trying to log on from the beach (sadly this has been me in the past!).

What are your ideas on how to take a break from work over the holidays? What will you be doing this year?

If you’re on a budget and looking for alternative ideas for a holiday, read the post. There’s lots of ways you can have a decent break and not blow the budget. Remember to practice self-care at work upon your return.

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How to take a break over the holidays


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