A whole week ‘Off’!
Posted on June 9, 2021
I managed a whole week ‘off’ work!
This is one of those blogs where it might appear I am showing off, because I managed to have a week where I did no work. This is actually a blog where I am thinking about how I managed to do it, how it felt and musings on how this might help you to do the same!
The week before my week off I spent some time scheduling my social media, ensuring that my ‘out of office’ email was ready to go and forewarning people that I was going to have the half term week off, and that I actually meant it! I stuck to my principle and did not download the app which would enable me to see my emails on my phone and I discussed with my partner how we both really meant it, no work for a week. This prep work I think did help me mentally prepare for the notion of a week off.
Where we were going also helped, it was the far north of Scotland where the 4G signal was spotty or non-existent. The hotel had limited wifi in some areas, so yes, I did pop onto social media a couple of times but not for ‘work’ but to share a couple of photos of the wonderful vista and let friends and family know what we were doing (and to see how they were spending their time!)
Both laptops of mine and my partner were put into the bottom of the wardrobe and hidden by the spare blankets (from our eyes more than anyone elses). We did decide we wanted to take them ‘just in case’ but this was more so that we had them and could forget about them than to actually use them. Having them out of sight did put them out of mind!
Interestingly when I was a headteacher and in Portugal I still felt the need to constantly connect to wifi and check emails/messages. I wonder what has changed? -One thing I do know is that I was way too accessible (told people I would be regularly checking in) and with work accounts on my phone it was way too easy to do that ‘quick check in’.
Also, one person in our wider family group felt the need to do about an hour of work every day, and would go back into an area where there was signal to check her phone regularly. When I realised that she was doing this, I had a quick internal check in, did this make me anxious, did it make me want to do the same? The answer was categorically no! What I actually felt was sympathy for her that she felt she had to do this, but she felt that this was a compromise for her to have some ‘time off’ balanced into maintaining her workload. For me, I was confident that my prep work the week before and what was in my calendar for the week after was solid. However, when she was ‘off’ she really was off and none of us really talked ‘shop’ about any of our work (very diverse group) as there were so many other interesting things to chat about!
On reflection I know I’m in a much better place in how I prioritise and think about my emotional and mental health. My umbrella is strong and well maintained. This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel stressed or anxious at times, it means that I am better equipped to notice, check in with myself and do something about it. Would this have been possible as a member of SLT? Yes, I do believe so, if I had my umbrella and my boundaries and better self-awareness, (also the support of organisations such as the amazing HeadsUp4HTs).
I will admit that we returned on Friday (this had always been the plan) so that if anything major had happened work wise (for either myself or my partner) we had the weekend to check emails, phones, calendar and plan for this week. However, we spent most of the weekend with family in the sunshine in a garden, watching F1 and continuing our relaxing and recharging as we transitioned back into work mode for Monday.
Having a transitioning back into work time/space also helped, I think coming back later would have meant we had placed way too much pressure on finishing holiday (and doing the boring shopping/washing/prep) and going to work (setting alarm and feeling mental prepared) and I am becoming a fan on the transition in and the transition out. We had 6 solid days of holiday, true time off, much better than 7-10 days of ‘holiday’ but where work is done for an hour or so a day whilst on holiday. You may disagree, but however you plan your holidays, plan to be truly ‘off’, and then follow through and celebrate when you manage it!