Why is it that we wake up with loads of energy on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but when Monday comes along it's tough to get out of bed? For me, it's because I have more of a routine during the week and I'm not a fan of routine. Sometimes there are tough tasks that have to get done during the week, and we are able to mentally set them aside for the weekend.
Yes, even those of us who love our work can feel a bit disappointed when a relaxing and fun weekend comes to a close, but it doesn't have to be that way.
When I worked in corporate, I dreaded getting on the commuter train. Not because I disliked the train, but because that was the moment when I felt like I was handing over control of my day to my employer. Having cared for kids and animals and done a few chores before leaving the house, I felt like I never had a moment to myself. So, I took back my control. I decided to put a little vacation in each and every day and many years later I still do it.
Your brain functions better with frequent breaks.
There's too much research to deny the fact that our brains need frequent breaks, yet entrepreneurs are notorious for pushing themselves to brain fatigue. Here's the thing: taking frequent breaks will make you more productive, creative, and focused. You will get more done in less time and with less stress when you put a little vacation in each day. Why do I refer to it as a vacation? For entrepreneurs, freedom is important and there's nothing like returning to your vacation mentality to help you exercise your freedom.
A little vacation in each day holds a different intent than taking a break.
When we say, "I need a break," it has a different feeling to it than "I'm going on a mini-vacation." A break feels like a necessity and you'll tend to take your problems with you. If you tell your brain that you're in vacation mode it has permission to relax and leave behind thoughts of work. Yes, it's semantics, but don't knock it. Studies show that words can actually change your brain. Positive words can alter the expression of genes, strengthen the frontal lobes, and motivate us into action. We naturally have a stronger, more positive association with the word vacation than break, usually taken at the peak of exhaustion.
The thought of a mini-vacation also pushes you to think of activities that differ from those related to a quick break. Your prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that solves problems, organizes things and sorts out your decisions, functions at a much greater capacity when you regularly step away from your work. How often do you take a break and stop thinking about what you left behind? Right, not often. Trick your brain into forgetting your stress by putting it in vacation mode; it's sort of a placebo effect.
How to put a little vacation in each day.
It's those little snippets of time that we remember most from our vacations. Things like lingering over your morning coffee, calming your mind in nature, and that moment when you realize you haven't felt so relaxed in a long time. That's the frame of mind you can revisit when you take yourself on a little vacation every day.
Back in my corporate days, I would precede my commute by stopping in the local coffee house across from the train station to enjoy some banter with the owners and other patrons. I then sat in a beautiful little park and savored my coffee while taking in the fresh air. To claim this time as my own gave me everything I needed to get on that train feeling complete. At work, I stopped worrying about what others would think of me and took a lunch hour to go shopping, on walks along Lake Michigan, to the gym, or out to a nice lunch. Just like I would if I were on vacation.
How do you take mini-vacations without using up an entire day?
That's easy because you don't have to go far. This is a mental activity so no need to be at the ocean. I am fortunate enough to have built a virtual sanctuary in my backyard, so that's as far as I need to go on a busy day. You can simply move into your most relaxing room, put your feet up, and read some fiction. Or, try doodling because it uses a different part of your brain. Close your eyes and envision your favorite vacation spot, pretending for a few minutes that you're there.
The best choice is to remove yourself from your work environment and do something that's totally unrelated to work. Take a shopping break, pull some weeds or plant flowers if you enjoy it, go for a run in the park, meet a friend for a 30-minute coffee or a longer lunch. The key is to do something that you enjoy and take in every moment of it, seeing it as your hard-earned privilege of freedom.