It’s been slightly over a year since my last post. In that time I’ve switched jobs, a pandemic started, presidents changed and I’ve gone from being very active outdoors, to spending most of my time at home. In this last year, most of my daily activities have, unfortunately, taken place no further than half a mile from home. With everything happening so local, it’s been hard at times to shut down after work.
One thing this pandemic has really drilled in is that I should allocate some ‘random’ days off, even if I have no plans to do anything. I’ve often fallen into the trap of holding on to my precious days off(even if I have ‘unlimited PTO’), for fear they’d be wasted and prevent me from taking a longer trip later on. Although I’ve gotten better in recent years, it’s often felt like deadlines were quickly approaching, project scope creeping up, and that constant concern that taking time off would set the team back. Over the last couple years I’ve been trying to stick to two things which I think have really helped me avoid burning out:
- Setting a maximum amount of days to take off for the year and making it a goal to hit that. In my case, around twenty days has felt like a good upper bound. While at a regular company that sets a limit, it’s easy to think about how much time is left and plan time off around that. Setting an artificial boundary where no clear one exists(ie. ‘Unlimited PTO’) has allowed me to not fall into the trap of saying ‘maybe later’, and then end up eleven months into the year having only taken off a couple of days.
- Whenever feeling stressed, scheduling one to two days off for the upcoming month to have some time off to look forward to. I’ve found scheduling even just a day off for a later date helps me maintain focus, since my goal is less about finishing a seemingly endless chain of tickets, and more about feeling like everything is in a comfortable position to put on hold for a moment. Even if I go nowhere on those days that I’m off, taking time to step away, relax, and spend time doing things I might not normally do during the day has a knock-on effect of having me come back with a clearer head.
All things considered, I’ve felt this approach to be refreshing and essential at a time where it sometimes feel impossible to disconnect from work.