“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
– Anne Lamott
Do you have a 20th Century fast food slogan running through your head right now?
Sorry, not sorry.
Why am I feeling so chipper? A couple of weeks ago, I took a vacation. I disconnected as much as possible from the day job, including e-mail and social media. It was great.
A few days before I was due to leave, one of the organizations I work closely with asked me and a bunch of my counterparts if we were available for a meeting the following week. I replied that I would be away and offered to send someone from my office if it couldn’t wait until I returned.
Within minutes, one of my colleagues weighed in. The gist of his comment was that he had been on vacation a couple of months before but still managed to attend four meetings.
I’m proud of my response, which stayed clear of snark and sarcasm (after a couple of drafts). It was also free of apology. “Good for you,” I wrote. “But I am taking a break. The life I save might not be my own.”
Not long ago, I would have been offended by the implication that my vacation was a sign of idleness or extravagance. But that kind of thinking is simply ill-informed. Time off isn’t a luxury; it’s a vital investment in your mental, emotional, and physical well-being. The cult of perpetual busyness tells us we don’t need or deserve rest, and the more you believe in it, the more urgent the situation is.
It’s challenging to go against the flow of “hustle culture and “rise and grind, but a vacation can be your most powerful tool for enhancing creativity, productivity, and overall well-being.
Continuous stress and overworking trigger stress hormones like cortisol, which chip away at cognitive functions such as decision-making, executive function, problem-solving, and creativity. Prolonged exposure to these stressors can lead to burnout and a creative well gone dry.
Stepping away from work and immersing yourself in new experiences can reverse this cycle. Things like travel, spending time in nature, and engaging in hobbies unrelated to your work activate different parts of the brain. A little reboot will let you return with a clearer perspective, improved cognitive function, greater emotional regulation, heightened creativity, and a better sense of humour.
A bunch of creative people agree with me. In honour of the joy—and necessity—of slacking off for a bit, here are some of my favourite quotes on taking a break.”
- “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” [Anne Lamott].
- “It’s precisely those who are busiest who most need to give themselves a break.” [Pico Iyer in The Art of Stillness].
- “Laziness is nothing more than the habit of resting before you get tired.” [Jules Renard].
- “If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit.” [Bansky].
- “We must always change, renew, rejuvenate ourselves. Otherwise, we harden.” [Johann Wolfgang von Goethe].
- “Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.” [John Lubbock in The Use of Life].
- “After all, the best part of a holiday is perhaps not so much to be resting yourself as to see all the other fellows busy working.” Kenneth Grahame in The Wind in the Willows].
That last one is my favourite. 😛