Scott Helmes, managing director, CareerBuilder UK, offers his advice on how to make the most of your time off work
The holiday season is in full swing and millions of us are heading off to enjoy some much-deserved rest and relaxation. While a holiday is a chance to completely switch off and step away from your daily routine, time away from the office can be a valuable opportunity to assess the status of your career, think about your professional goals. But, before you go, here are some tips for making the most of your time off.
Time to reflect
Most calendars and to-do lists don’t include reflection time, but they should. Take time to think about your day-to-day tasks and responsibilities, look at everything from a wider perspective than you otherwise might have been able to do on an average working day. A holiday can be a good opportunity to reflect on the processes in place at work and how your role functions within the wider organisation. Take a few minutes (or hours) of your holiday to think about how you can make your life better when you’re back at the office. That’s not to say you should sit on the beach with a laptop making notes. In fact, if you’ve been working on a particularly thorny issue at work for some time, taking a break from it could provide the breakthrough you need.
The power of daydreaming
Archimedes had his ‘eureka!’ moment about water displacement while relaxing in the bath and Einstein worked out the Theory of Relativity while out cycling. Sometimes letting your mind take a rest is all you need to come up with that great idea. Neuroscience continues to provide a fascinating insight into how such breakthroughs occur. Using brain scans, researchers found that just prior to a moment of insight, the brain turns inward and lights up an area thought to be linked to our ability to understand metaphors. A positive mood and taking time to relax were found to be essentials precursors to these ‘Aha!’ moments. It turns out that when we’re idle, our brains are most active – another good reason to lie back and relax!
Re-assess your goals
Much of what we do each day makes us feel productive, but can fail to take us any closer to our bigger goals. Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto suggested the 80/20 rule, meaning 80 per cent of the results you achieve come from 20 per cent of your efforts. Are you focusing on the 20 per cent, or filling your day with “busy time” on the other 80 per cent? Keeping your bigger goals in mind can help motivate and focus your efforts, but goals change. Use your time away from work to reassess where you want to be in life. Does achieving the next step on the career ladder fit with starting a family or moving to the coast? Should you be networking, taking on consultancy work or starting your own business? Once you know the answer to your self-discovery questions, ask yourself if you are taking the right steps to get there? Make one or two resolutions you can put into place once back in the office. Whether that’s spending 30 minutes networking or keeping up to date with industry developments by reading professional magazines every day. Small things, if done daily, can be highly effective and open career doors that may otherwise have remained closed.
While you’re downloading the latest summer must-read, why not buy a business book? Learning from great business leaders can offer new perspectives and help you return to work with renewed purpose. If your role requires motivating others to high performance, try Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink. Most of us have something we would like to change about ourselves in our professional or personal life. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg examines the science behind why habits develop and how businesses, communities and individuals can change for the better. Don’t fancy a business book? An autobiography of someone you admire or a real life story of survival against the odds can be inspiring too. However, if reading or looking at the screen feels too much like hard work, download an audio book and listen while you top-up your tan and get to work on a daydream. Making the most of your time off is essential to ensuring mental and physical health. Sometimes you need to unplug entirely from the office; other times a little professional self-reflection is better. However you decide to spend your holiday, make sure you’re getting the most of it.