Sometimes we may not even realize that we are getting burned out. But the warning signs are there — our productivity is slipping, our minds are wandering, and we find it difficult to stay focused on the task at hand.
You might think that the answer is to use self discipline to buckle down and work harder, but the opposite is often true. Often, what we really need is a mini-vacation, a short one day outing that is a break from our ordinary routines.
This happened to me recently. I had been pushing myself to get my most recent app finished, but there were many little details that still needed attention. I would find myself floundering, allowing myself to get distracted rather than focus on the task.
Valentine’s Day came, and my husband suggested an outing to the beach (yeah, I know, Southern California in February). My first thought was — “But I really need to get this app released!” Then I realized that a break might be just what I needed. So off we went.
The day was such an enormous break from my normal activities. But the following day was when I felt the change. I was refreshed and reenergized, and ready to wrap up my app.
Here are five tips for refreshing yourself and rekindling your motivation through taking a mini-vacation:
1. Go someplace different
Think about the places you have been in the last month. Have you mostly been confined to the city? Mostly indoors?
It is time to make a change and go someplace fresh that will blow out the cobwebs. Think of places that take you away from your normal surroundings and pursuits. How about a visit to a museum, or a bike ride, or cross country skiing?
If at all possible choose a destination where you haven’t been before. But if you have a favorite place to get away from it all and want to go back, just make sure to view it with fresh eyes, and leave your troubles at home.
If you can’t get away from home, do something really different at home. How about eating brownies by the fire while you learn a new musical instrument?
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber
2. Choose your partner in crime
Who you go with on the mini-vacation is an important choice. Often it will be with your significant other. But you could go with a friend, or a family member, or go by yourself to a meet-up where you will meet new people.
As you go forth on your mini-vacation make sure that both you and your companion are caught up in the spirit of adventure. If one person is worrying about work or home it can ruin the mini-vacation for both. Make a promise to each other that the problems at home can wait. This is a day to get away from it all.
3. Don’t think about your goals
While you are on a mini-vacation, it is important to not think and plan and figure ways to get ahead. Your mind needs a break.
Our best ideas often come when we aren’t actively thinking about a problem. Our brains churn away, unnoticed, while we are doing something else. New sights and experiences can trigger new thoughts, and we can come back with new, innovative ideas.
Keep your mind in the present, really savoring the unique experiences of the day.
4. Pay attention to your body
It is hard to relax and enjoy if you are too hot, or too cold, or tired, or hungry. Pay attention to what your body needs, and work that into the mini-vacation. Nobody said that if you go to a museum that you have to push yourself to see every exhibit. Take your time, sit and think a little, take a break and go to the coffee shop. Go ahead and leave when you are tired. You will enjoy the whole experience more.
With a little forethought you can choose your mini-vacation to rejuvenate your body. You can sleep on the sand at the beach if you are overtired. You can go for a hike to get tired and hungry, then truly enjoy a nice meal at a restaurant afterward. Find a cooler area if it is hot at home (in southern California we are blessed with the beach and the mountains). Find someplace warm if it is cold. Nothing beats sitting next to a fire on a cold and rainy day.
If you are like most people these days you might feel tired, but actually need more exercise. Going for a bike ride or hike can do wonders to elevate your spirits.
“Laughter is an instant vacation.” – Milton Berle
5. Be in the present moment
Most of all, to get the greatest benefits from your mini-vacation, you need to be in the present moment. Pay attention to your surroundings. Watch people, and see what you can understand about their lives from the way they act. Take a deep breath of fresh air, and smell the grasses, trees, ocean, or snow.
When you come back from your mini-vacation you may not be able to pick up exactly where you left off, because you will be in a different frame of mind. But you will benefit from the fresh ideas and perspective you gain from the experience.