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How to build in better work practices so you don’t spend your holidays “recovering from work.”

Recently, I was listening to Adam Grant being interviewed on the No Filter podcast. The host Mia was picking Adam’s brain about burnout and languishing, a word he put around the feeling that was 2021. Mia explained that she felt pretty burnt out last year but took a nice big break over the summer to recharge and now feels substantially better. Adam took issue with this idea of “recharging” during our holidays. He questioned whether the point of holidays is to recover from burnout so we can work again.

Adam explains that we shouldn’t be going on holiday to recharge, but to rejoice, rather than desperately filling up our gas tank so we can be productive again. I felt like this podcast was talking to the people-pleasing, perfectionist version of me from a few years ago. Most of my holidays were spent sick in bed after pushing myself to the absolute brink all year. Mia and Adam went on to discuss how recharging your batteries should be a daily practice that you build into your working life so that you don’t need to use your holidays to pull yourself back together but instead to thoroughly enjoy.

Now that I work a Four Day Week, at an organisation that prioritises flexibility and wellbeing, I’ve realised that I have a whole lot more time in my holidays for rejoicing. So what am I doing differently? What practices have I built into my work life that has created this shift? Here’s a list of what’s currently working for me, all backed by science of course 😉

  1. Creating a Third Space: What time are you finishing work at the moment? I’m not referring to the time you leave your home “office” (kitchen counter / child’s playroom), I’m asking when you do your last work based activity for the day. When do you do your last work email / slack channel check? On the couch when you’re waiting for Netflix to load the next episode? As you’re brushing your teeth? When you’re in bed setting your alarm for the following morning? For a lot of us, work doesn’t stop at the typical 5 or 6pm anymore. This delineation of boundaries is leaving us feeling like we’re “always on”, tired but wired. I could go on forever about the importance of setting boundaries, but I know you want me to get to the point. So, one thing I do to signal to myself that my day is done, is entering my third space. Adam Fraser (different Adam) talks about this concept of the third space. Creating a transitional space between work and home has been a life changer for me. When I’m working from home and it’s time to log off, my third space looks like a walk outside my house. Whether it’s for 10 minutes or 100 minutes (just kidding, who do you think I am?!) I get out of my house at the end of each day. This means that when I put my key in the door at the end of my walk I’m entering the house as “home Sasha” rather than “work Sasha.” It works wonders for keeping me off my laptop (which I shutdown before my walk), and helping me switch off for the night.
  2. Taking micro-breaks: Research from the University of Coloradohas shown that in contrast to one 30-minute break (or no breaks at all!), hourly five-minute walking breaks boost energy, sharpen focus, improve mood and reduce feelings of fatigue in the afternoon more effectively. Whilst I must say I do still enjoy a seated lunch break, wherever possible throughout my day I get up and pace around my house, my balcony or my neighborhood. Walking meetings, creative thinking or simply just taking a quick break I try to opt away from screen time and get myself up and moving.
  3. Piggybacking Joy: Think about those people / things / activities that bring you joy, and then piggyback them onto tasks you already complete each day. Habit expert BJ Fogg talks about this concept of habit stacking(piggybacking just sounds more joyful). It’s the idea that if you want to start creating a new habit, the best way to set yourself up for success is to piggyback that habit onto an existing habit, that will act as a trigger for you. For me this looks like piggybacking fun dance music onto my usual morning coffee making routine. I also have a rule that whenever I take a bathroom break throughout my workday I go and find my cats and give them a belly-rub (joyful for both parties).

Have a go at applying some of these tools for yourself, and then email me a photo of you thoroughly rejoicing on your next vacation, [email protected]