How to Take a Vacation–Even If You’re Too Busy Or Too Broke

Freelancer VacationEveryone, including freelancers, needs regular breaks. Vacations are important for our productivity. Taking frequent breaks keeps the mind “sharp” and protects us from the dreaded burnout. Health considerations also require us to make room for more physical activity and adequate rest.

But, freelancers typically use one of these excuses–or both–to work without interruptions, until either illness or a nervous breakdown forces us to stop:

“I’m too busy”

“I can’t afford it”

Even if your project schedule and personal life are both full, and even if your income is barely enough to cover your basic necessities, you can and should take a vacation.

With this post, I’d like to convince you that you CAN afford to take time off. In fact, you can’t afford not to.


What’s a Vacation Anyway?

Before you start daydreaming about spending six weeks in a resort in Hawaii, let’s take a look at what the essence of a “vacation” is.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “vacation” as:

  • a respite or a time of respite from something
  • a scheduled period during which activity (as of a court or school) is suspended
  • a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation

Therefore, to get a proper vacation, you must:

  • Have rest or respite from your freelancing work. Get away from your work, even for a few minutes every day. I highly recommend physically removing yourself from your home office. Or, if your entire home is your office, then step out of your house. That said, mentally disengaging from work is the bigger challenge.
  • Suspend all activity related to freelancing. It’s easy for anything to become work-related. Even chatting with friends can turn into a brainstorming session or market research activity for your work. Avoid this!
  • Use that time in recreation. Make sure you’re doing something that’s restful and refreshing. You should feel recharged and raring to get back to work, even if your mini-vacation required physical exertion.

Looking at these three requirements, it’s easy to see that you don’t need to spend a lot of time or money to have a REAL vacation.

If you’re extremely busy and/or budget-challenged, focus on taking small but effective vacations every single day, and slightly longer ones every week.

Daily Staycations

You don’t have to leave home give yourself a quick break. Set aside 15 to 30 minutes every day to step away from all work-related activities and engage in something recreational. For example:

  • Take a long, relaxing bath. Take the phone off the hook, turn down the lights, get a babysitter for the kids, and indulge in this activity without any guilt.
  • Read a novel by your favorite author. Borrow the book from the library or a friend so you don’t spend a thing.
  • Play a video game. If you’re a gamer, this will be recharging.
  • Go out for a run or ride on your bike. Like hitting two birds with one stone: you get away from work and do something good for your body at the same time.
  • Give yourself a home facial. Not for ladies only, even guys’ skins need a little TLC now and again.

No matter which option you choose, take a deep breath and relax!

Weekly Time Off

Once a week, spend a couple of hours to a full day to:

  • Have lunch or coffee with friends. Freelancers don’t get a lot of opportunities. Make time to reconnect with the most important people in your life.
  • Enroll in a class on something totally unrelated to your work. Before you became an overworked freelancer, you had varied interests and were an interesting person. Don’t lose that edge!
  • Pack some sandwiches and cold drinks and have a picnic at the park. Take advantage of the wonderful spring and summer weather.
  • Lose yourself in a bookstore or library, browsing through books and magazines. Admittedly not a relaxing activity for everyone, but if this is a favorite activity of yours, then indulge once in a while (watch the budget, though).
  • Pour yourself in a hobby, whether it’s crafting, gardening,  carpentry or something else. Hobbies nourish our souls.

On the other hand, I don’t recommend these activities:

  • Drinking
  • Overeating
  • Aimlessly surfing the Internet and TV

Drinking and overeating are bad for your body, and can have serious health consequences. Aimless TV watching and web surfing tend to drain rather than recharge you. Besides, if you already spend hours a day in front of a screen, then you need to step away from it to take a real vacation. There’s also something escapist about these activities.

The essence of a vacation is not to escape, but to disengage from something and do something refreshing, relaxing and enjoyable.

For more ideas, read about these five cheap and relaxing mini-vacations.

While these mini-vacations will be beneficial and will effectively keep burnout at bay, do make plans to take longer vacations. You know, the kind you have to save up for and plan for at least a couple of months ahead for? You’ll have to manage your workload and finances to pull off a longer vacation.

No Excuses

No matter what your challenges are–whether they be the lack of time or the lack of money or both–realize that you’re entitled to take time off to recharge regularly.

Don’t wait for somebody to give you paid vacation days; nobody will. But, I hereby give you permission to take a vacation as needed.

As you’ve seen in the examples above, a vacation doesn’t have to be long drawn-out, complicated, time consuming or expensive. The most important thing is that you’re able to step away mentally and physically from your work to engage in an activity that recharges your body and soul.

You owe it to yourself, your clients and your family to be in the best of health, best mental state, and maximum level of creativity.

How Do You Do It?

How do you take vacations? What are your favorite quickie ways to recharge every day and every week? Or, are you in dire need of a vacation?

Do share.

Image by nattu