It’s the last week of the year, your out-of-office reply is on, and you’re ready to relax and take the next few days off.
But let’s be honest — you’re not reaaallllly going to take the rest of the year completely off. In all likelihood, you’re still going to absentmindedly check your email, maybe listen to a voicemail or two, read news that’s relevant to your industry, and possibly even try to work on some of those long-term projects you’ve been putting off since this time last year.
At the same time, you want to take this time off! What’s a freelancer to do?
Here are some strategies that you can employ, either all together or a la carte (or mix-n-match!) to help you tune out when you need to tune out, and tune in only — only! — when you need to tune in over the holiday break. Because as you no doubt already know, relaxing and recharging will actually make you more productive when you go back to work.
1) Tell Yourself Why You Are Doing This
No good plan begins without identifying your motivation. Why do you want to unplug? Is it to spend more quality time with your family? Is it for your own mental well-being? Is it so you’ll return to work a better, more relaxed you in the new year? Locate your motivation, write it down (on paper), and remind yourself of it as you go through the strange and uncomfortable process of trying to tune out of work and in to the relaxation (and stress!) of the holidays.
2) Designate Certain Times to Check Your Email and Industry-Related News
If you’re glued to your phone during most of the year, it’s gonna be tempting to run through your usual list of checks whenever you get bored; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, email, repeat. You might do it on the sly while your extended family is deciding where to have dinner. You might do it in the bathroom when you excuse yourself from an uncle’s long-winded story. You will for sure do it in line at whatever small artisanal local coffee shop you frequent (or Starbucks).
Some of those checks are going to be unavoidable; mostly, the Starbucks line (what the hell else are you supposed to do?). But as much as you can, stick to social media instead of email or industry-specific news. Old emails will draw you back in to work-related problems that you can’t fix right now (everyone else is on break too), and new email senders will get your out-of-office reply; that is why you set it up.
As for industry-specific news, anything along those lines is going to cause professional fomo. In order to avoid the anxiety — and also in order to actually cleanse your mind of work-related things — designate 30 to 60 minutes each day to check email and read pertinent news, and then don’t do it again until the following day.
It will be hard, but we bet you won’t miss the constant refreshing that you’re accustomed to all year.
3) Remove the Email Shortcut From Your Phone and Turn Off Notifications
Aha, gotcha! You know you can take that sucker off without doing any kind of damage at all, and so do we. Taking the email shortcut off your phone does one thing, and one thing only; it makes it harder for you to check email. If you really want to stick to checking it only once a day, take that shortcut and drop it in the garbage. You can put it back on come Jan. 3, 2018.
Also, don’t try to get slick with us — turning notifications on and off is as easy as a single tap. Just give it a whirl; if you have a full-blown panic attack, you can turn them back on. But you probably won’t.
4) Make Plans to Talk (With Your Voice) to People About Truly Time-Sensitive Projects
If, for some reason, you do have someone you actually might need to connect with, give them your direct phone number and tell them to call with anything pressing. This prevents you from worrying that you’re missing important emails from them, and it also forces you to prioritize your work. For instance, you probably don’t need to reorganize your invoices this week, but maybe you do need to talk to a client who will be making time-sensitive tweaks to a project.
Before you go on break, let them know that you plan to check email less frequently, and ask them to please call you if they need anything at all. They will appreciate your foresight and planning, and you will appreciate not having to fret all day every day that you’re missing something critical.
These strategies should help you let go of your workhorse mentality — for at least a brief period of time. You might come up with a few more strategies that work for you; the important thing is to keep trying, keep reminding yourself of why you’re doing it, and bear in mind that work will always, always be there for you when you get back.
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