Did you know that one of the biggest regrets of the dying is ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’?

As I write this from Toronto, I realize that although it’s not surprising to hear that no one wishes they’d worked harder, what IS surprising is that we’re in the midst of a beautiful summer and I wonder how many of us have barely had time to enjoy it because, well, we’re working so damn hard!

Seriously, how many of us are not taking time off to enjoy ourselves and the warm summer weather that we wait all year for?

This leaves me fantasizing about leaving all the ‘doing’ and working behind, unplugging from it all, closing the laptop, and not looking back until the leaves start to turn (and preferably doing this all from the coast of Italy…more on that later).

We’d rather be splashing into pool or lake waters, sipping our morning coffee next to the garden or towering pines, and sharing stories around a campfire as ”…the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time.” (A nod to my fellow Canucks)

And, like the rest of you, I’ve been thinking a lot about vacations and time off lately. Time to go heal in nature and connect with friends.

I recently came across this question…

“What would you do if you could close down your job for 3 months and take a summer vacation? Where would you go?”

And it got me thinking about the reality of taking the whole summer off.

Could I stop working for 2 full months? I’m lucky enough to be my own boss, so it might be possible if I strategically saved during the year. However, I have this internal narrative that says I MUST keep working … or overwork to EARN my time off.

“Burnout is the result of setting yourself on fire to keep everyone else warm”

And even though we all know where burnout leads – ⚰️ , so many of us have this push to keep working. It doesn’t seem to matter who you are or what you do, we’re all feeling the stress and strain of constant work.

Physical and mental exhaustion has become our norm and for some reason, we need to write our own damn permission slips to just go the f*ck outside.

Vacation anxiety

For many of us, vacation comes with its own type of anxiety. We worry about what we’ll miss if we take time off … will the project stall? Will someone else get the promotion? Will I lose momentum in my business?

So we overcompensate before we go on vacation. Working longer hours, attempting to “get ahead” and leaving our coworkers in the best possible position.

Then, when we return, we throw ourselves into work and justify longer hours in the name of catching up.

And when we bookend our vacation time with added stress we end up spending the first half of our vacation just unwinding and the second half dreading the return to the office.
So, how do we break this cycle? I’ve got a few ideas.
First, let’s be real, we likely aren’t as important or needed as we think we are. And everyone will survive just fine if we take time off. They’ll figure it out and make decisions and very likely nothing’s going to fall apart without you.

And if you’re like me and you run a business, most likely no one’s going to notice if you don’t show up in their inbox or their feed as often. And, you could always schedule things ahead of time to post later (that’s what I do).
If the idea of time off feels stressful, ask yourself why. Once you’ve figured out what causes your anxiety (ie. work piling up, clients not being taken care of, missing an important meeting) ask for help. Delegate. Chat with a trusted coworker or your manager. Get a colleague to send you the topline notes for the meeting. Find ways to ease the pressure. And maybe make a plan for reentry that prioritizes your well-being.

I think we forget sometimes that we have agency. That we’re grown-ass adults who can make decisions to better our health and well-being.
I recently decided that weekends would NOT be for work – I know, revolutionary.

When I posted my “slams laptop shut until Monday” post on Instagram, it honestly affected my life. Since I declared my intentions publicly, I actually started to prioritize rest, fun, play, and relaxation on the weekends instead of constantly (sneakily) working.

And that post piqued a LOT of people’s interest. I had DMs asking how it was going and if it was helping my mental health.

In case you were wondering – yes, yes it has.

I’m not going to lie, it came with a rollercoaster of emotions – guilt, anxiety, and freedom. It felt like I was getting away with something. It also felt like a massive exhale.

It’s also proven to help me be MORE productive when I do get back online. Go figure, not firing on all cylinders 7 days a week has a positive effect. 

And, if you’re constantly watching your inbox or afraid of not responding to emails on the weekends you could always create boundaries by using an autoresponder.

It doesn’t have to be boring or robotic either.

Something as simple as…
“Weekends are for stargazing and s’mores. They’re for dipping your toes into the lake and picnics under giant maples. Weekends are also for good books and bingeing the latest season of The Bear.
Weekends are not for work.
So you can expect to hear back from me on Monday, probably after my morning walk and my first cup of coffee.”

Who knows, maybe with enough autoresponders floating around we can encourage others to reclaim their weekends too.

If you can’t take the whole summer off

And many of us can’t for all kinds of reasons. There’s this new thing called a “workcation” and if you work remotely this might be worth considering.

The idea is that you can work from anywhere as long as you’ve got some reliable WiFi. So a sexy summer spent in a new city or new country (ciao Italy!!) while you’re still working might be the best of both worlds.

You can capitalize on your peak productivity by blocking your calendar during those hours. Then, give yourself time to embrace a change of scenery by exploring your new location. Indulge. Relax. Soak up the energy. It might even give you fresh inspiration, creativity, and focus when you are working.

Some see it as an opportunity to balance work and play without the anxiety of leaving unfinished work behind or dreading the mountain of work you’ll come back to.

In case you need any more convincing…

“Companies that adapted to a 4 day work week saw an increase in productivity from 20 – 40%” so unplugging from work and your laptop will actually help you get more done!
We all know that social media negatively impacts our mental health and screen time encourages sedentary lifestyles so if you’re struggling to get your kids to stop playing video games and binge-watching YouTube and go outside screenfree.org has lots of resources to help.

You could even invite some playfulness into your weekends by also making your own adult version of their Screen-Free Bingo with all your favourite activities.

It’s important to take time off. To step away. To remember that we “work to live NOT live to work”. To enjoy la dolce vita. And we know the health benefits of being in nature so if you need a permission slip to close your laptop this weekend, THIS IS IT! There’s no better time to make getting outside a priority than right now.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to take August off from content creation for my biz. My intention is to play and rest. To connect with friends and nature. To dream and plan. So that I can come back in September with fresh ideas. Stay tuned because it feels like something new is coming…

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