Taking Time Off Without Going on Vacation

Because you are self-employed and your office is located in your own humble abode, you’re already all too familiar with the tired misconceptions friends and family have about your career. The believe that you don’t have a real job, you are immune to deadlines, and you are free to help them out in any way necessary when called upon since everyone else is busy working.

Without clear boundaries, the freelance life can quickly deteriorate into the most demanding lifestyle imaginable. If you are successful, you have probably already established these boundaries and taken a little heat for it. But friends and relatives with their “honey-do” lists are only part of the discrimination you face on a daily basis.

In this post, we’ll help you avoid the problem of having too much to do and show you how you can take time off without going on vacation.

Why Breaks Are Important

If you believe, as many freelancers do, that your world is going to implode the moment you avert your attention from your work, your biggest misconception may be your own.

Everyone needs a little time away from it all–even you. Especially you, since you are critical to your own performance and success as a freelancer.

When you rely on yourself as you do, you have to begin to see you as the greatest investment you can make. You are the most valuable asset in your business, and you need to take care of yourself. Part of this involves getting a much needed and well-deserved break, or even a full-blown vacation.
Sure, a vacation isn’t always practical. There may even be legitimate reasons it is impossible. But there are ways to take time off while you are working from home, and many of them can be found during a typical workday, without having to completely stop production.

Easy Tips for Taking Time Off

Here are some quick and refreshing ways to reinvigorate yourself without leaving the office:

  1. Put you on the schedule, and stick to it. Just think about it: if you were one of your clients or contacts, and you had a meeting, phone call, or video conference scheduled, you wouldn’t miss it for the world, would you? Well, treat yourself like any client! Pencil yourself in and set an alarm to remind you, and when it goes off–it’s You Time. Take a little break to walk away from your desk. Go outside and smell some flowers. Play with the dog. Take a quick bike ride around the block. Whatever you choose to do, make this a habit and stick to it every day. You’ll come back refreshed and able to do a better job for the rest of the day.
  2. Plug in. Listening to music on your headphones while you work will help you “get into your zone” and might make it easier for you to focus on the task at hand, while providing a relaxing and enjoyable experience at the same time. Listening to favorite songs on your iPod will make you feel like you’re on vacation while you are working.
  3. Stretch. Every forty-five minutes to an hour, get out of your chair, stand up, and stretch. Don’t just reach for the sky and slump back down into your seat; really go for it, like a cat would. Stretch every limb, rotate all your cuffs, flex those tendons and make sure you are feeling it. This small thing will have you feeling restored in moments, and once you start it, you will soon make it part of every day.
  4. Breathe deeply. When you’re gritting your teeth trying to grind out that story before your five o’clock deadline, you might not be paying attention to your breathing–so much so that you might actually cease to breathe without realizing it! Have you ever caught yourself feeling slightly light-headed after several moments of deep concentration, and then realized you had not really been breathing? You’d be surprised how often this happens. If you get too focused on something you are working on, stop yourself and take a few deep breaths. Your brain needs the oxygen. This alone will make you feel like you’re at the spa.
  5. Leave work at work. This is much harder for freelancers who work at home, than it is for people who work in an office building, but you have to establish the same boundaries, or you’ll never feel you’ve left work. You have to make your time off sacred, and honor it routinely. Imagine your friends who do work nine to five in offices, who have the luxury of leaving their work behind each day when they come home. You deserve the same thing, but only you can make it happen.

Give yourself these important breaks. They are unobtrusive, simple, and effective–and they will likely improve your work if you practice them every day. These tips are by no means designed to encourage anyone to neglect taking an actual vacation, but they can get you by while you are planning yours.

Enjoy your breaks.

Your Turn

How do you make sure that you get the breaks you need? Share your answer in the comments.

Image by Enkhtuvshin’s 40D