I just returned from visiting my elderly parents in Florida for a week before stopping in SC on the flight home to visit my sister and brother-in-law in their new home for a few days. It was the longest I had been away in quite some time and the first in YEARS that I didn’t have to log into the office to check/answer emails or worry about client work. I actually relaxed and enjoyed. Still, I didn’t just want to lay around watching AMC Horror-Fest and free movies On Demand all week. Yes, I wanted this time off to be a recouperative one, but I also wanted it to be productive as well.
I don’t care how ambitious someone is – if you don’t listen to your body and mind and give it time to decompress you risk burnout. Everyone has a different way of logging out of ‘work mode’ and into ‘relaxation’ mode. Some will take standard, annual vacations. Others will take weekend getaways here and there. Due to hub’s seasonal business (and debt we are trying to pay down) we do not take vacations – or at least the kind where you fill three suitcases to the brim then carried away on a plane for a week or two. The annual visit to my parents (on my own) is pretty much it. I’m perfectly happy spending my off time at home (because I’m out of it 9 hours a day) catching up on little projects around the house. I don’t consider it work, as getting things done that has nothing to do with my paycheck gives me a sense of relief.
My parents are night owls and sleep in whereas I’m asleep by nine and up early. And with a quiet house, no job to be at, no client work to do, no housework or errands to tend to (other than for them), I have an entire week with my laptop, mobile hot-spot, book, planner and a whole list of things I can catch up on that I can’t normally get to at home. I make the most of this precious time off so that the most pressing thing I have to take care of when I get back home is a mountain of mail (hub’ll cook, clean, grocery shop and do laundry, but the mail is OFF LIMITS)
Of course, this only applies to a situation where I’m mainly home-based during my time off. Unless I’m spending a week on a beach in Barbados, below is a list of how I stayed productive during my time off and gave myself less to do upon my return:
- Working Out. Home, I can only work out after I get home from the office. While in FL, pretty much whenever the heck I want. My week here really jump starts my fitness routine and I go back home a few pounds lighter. I take a 3-4 mile power walk with weights every day (usually right before they get up and before it gets too hot) then walk down to the gym in their clubhouse around 4-ish for some weight training before supper.
- Blog Posts. I usually write a lot of these during my downtime at the office as I’m alone – a lot. But while holed up in the spare room of my parents house, I made a list of subjects I wanted to write about and set up the titles as soon as I fired up my laptop. Since I’m up early, after checking the news and my feeds, I did a little writing for an hour or so before heading out for my walk. I got about 4 done so it gave me peace of mind to be ahead a bit
- Professional Certification. I’m a bookkeeper and Quickbooks Certified Pro Advisor which means I need to take the certification exam for the new version when it becomes available. Version 2016 was released last month and my QB Online certification expired on 10/25, meaning I now have two online exams to take. So, I took them both while here, freeing me up from having to dig into my precious weekend time once I get home
- Digital Organization. I currently use SmartVault to store client documents of a sensitive nature, Dropbox for personal/household docs and photos and recently began using OneNote for client notes, budget spreadsheet and such. After much consideration, I’ve decided that Dropbox is overkill and had begun the process of transferring everything to OneNote and discontinue using DropBox.
- Journaling/Drawing. I don’t get to do much of this in my spare time while home. I did a nifty zentangle after I got settled in at my parents then colored some of it in with my mother’s Sharpies (yes, my 85 year old mother owns Sharpies!) I also did a Contentment Mind Map (after being inspired by Ruth Soukop’s Living Well, Spending Less) as well as one for goals.
- Scheduling Ahead. I always visit my parents the last week of October so I’m there for my mom’s birthday. So when I return, I’m on the cusp of the beginning of a new month which means client bookkeeping for October will be rolling in. So I use the last day or so of my vacation to schedule email reminders as well as planning out which days to do the work so that it’s spread out evenly. I also do the same thing with what I have to get done at the office so that I go in Monday morning a little less overwhelmed
- Go Through Emails. Pretty much along the lines of #6 – I go through both my work and business Outlook to see if there’s anything that needs answering (I did have an automatic out-of-office reply so anyone who did email me knew I was away) and either flag it or make it ‘unread’ to handle when I get back. Anything that’s just an FYI (emails I was cc’d on) I move it to the corresponding sub-folder to get it out of my inbox as well as delete any junk/spam.
- Make Lists. I flew home on a Friday looking forward to an entire weekend of nothing work/business related. As I mentioned above, hub took care of the house so I didn’t have much to worry about except the mail and bill paying. After reading Ruth’s book, I decided to embark on a massive decluttering mission for November (and into December if needs be) as well as wanting to end 2015 strong by completing any old tasks. First, I mentally went through each room of my house and listed what could either be 1) Tossed 2) Given to Goodwill or 3) Consigned. THAT was a great relief (which allowed me to get up early Saturday am and begin purging/boxing up stuff with ease). Hub and I also watch a lot of shows together so I made a list of the ones I watched while away so we can compare what we have to catch up on together. For my OneNote project, I made a list of all household/personal/financial information I want to incorporation (sort of a digital home binder), I made a list of goals I wanted to reach for the new month, a master task list and an emergency kit list. It got the information out of my head without having to rush and gave me one (or 5) less things to do when I got back. Now, when it’s time to embark upon these things I can dig right in as the pre-planning is mainly done.
- Planning. I set up November in my planner by plugging in certain events (Thanksgiving), due dates (bills, coupon expirations) and reminders (direct deposits and auto drafts). I then went through the master task list I created above and scheduled several of them throughout the month. Again, this gave me great peace of mind to where I wasn’t scrambling to do this when I got home as Nov 1st was that Sunday.
- Recipes. I pin a lot of recipes as I’m always looking for new ways to cook the same piece of meat. Sunday is my scheduled day to plan supper for the week, but – again – I wanted the weekend after I got home to be as stress/errand/chore free as possible. One of my November goals is to come up with three new recipes for breakfast, lunch and supper so did some research, pinning and ingredient listing while sipping coffee in bed one morning.
Now before you go and say, “but, Elena – did you have ANY fun??” Actually, I did. I find getting these types of things done extremely relaxing – and relieving. I no longer lay by the pool at my parents house as a recent dermatological procedure has dissuaded me from any excessive sun exposure, but I did have LOTS of me time. I walked, listened to music, read, wrote, doodled, watched some cheesy movies, went to the mall and – most importantly – spent quality time with my 88 and 85 year old father and mother. Having them both alive and in generally good health trumps any island vacation – any day of the week!