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How Planning For Time Off Leads To Proactive Behavior

Do you struggle with procrastination instead of pro-activation?
 
There could be a simple solution for you. Schedule time off. And, do it daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. Doing so will foster proactive behavior.
 
During the week, I start my workday at 830 am and end it at 6 pm. I don’t work on Saturday or Sunday. For each month, I’ll take a few weekdays off. While I take a step back every December from blogging, I don’t yet have an annual cadence of taking time off.
 
When we schedule time off, we create boundaries and a sense of urgency that fuels productive behavior. It also encourages creativity.
 
During the early years at Noodlehead Marketing, I found myself working every day and all the time. Now, I have 47.5 hours slated for working each week and this includes my lunches. And yet, I accomplish way more than I ever did working crazy 70-80 hour work weeks. So why is that? Why are we more effective with time constraints?

The Value Of Constraints

Constraints create a sense of urgency that fosters focus and motivation to move actions forward. If I'm working all the time, it's easy for me to procrastinate because I'll have plenty of time to work on this thing "later". Thus, the urgent items get priority but the not-urgent but important actions take a back seat.
 
If I've got a project that must be done today, and I'm finishing my workday at 6 pm I better get it done before my cutoff time otherwise I'll have to wait until tomorrow to work on it.
 
And, it's not just setting these guidelines that matter, it's also the discipline to follow it that makes the difference. There are times when I should have worked on the project that day and didn't. Instead of working late, I've forced myself to face the consequences. Not easy or natural, but it does enforce positive behavior. There are times when I must work late or on the weekend but let me assure you it's not the normal operating procedure. When it becomes normal, its time to audit our situation.
 
Knowing what’s ahead leads to proactive behavior today. On the month level, my plan is to take a day off, relax, and have fun. This month with Thanksgiving coming up, we'll be traveling to my in-laws in Florida for the week. While I'll be working some that week, it's going to be sporadic and I may not be able to get blog posts up. Knowing this, I'll be logging more hours on the freelancing side and writing the blogs that will publish that week so I can still hit my goals with this expected dip. The scheduled time off causes me to plan without that day in my month, and it also gives me something to anticipate. These two tensions both act as great motivational pushes to get stuff done.

Preparing For Time Off Leads To Better Processes 

There's also another benefit of planning time off. Several years into our Noodlehead Marketing journey, I had a team member who was going to be gone for an entire month to Africa. While we had many systems in place, she was the manager of most of what went on in the company. I wasn't sure how this month would go, so we both prepared for this time off the month prior. 
 
I imagined we were told there was a hurricane heading our way and we needed to build up sandbags to protect us from the rising waters to come. So proactively, we did just that. During this time, we communicated with clients, team members, and practiced many of the activities as we prepared for the upcoming month. When the time finally arrived for her to leave, we were prepared and equipped. It also acted as a catalyst to improve and document our processes. 
 
When the month of her absence came, there was no issue at all. It was as if the water came up to the first row of sandbags, but never touched the layers above. This made the experience for me and my team member positive, and it allowed my team member to enjoy her time away. It was great to know we had over-prepared, but it was also great to know had it been a bad storm we would have been prepared for it.

In Conclusion

When we plan for time off and set boundaries, we'll get more done, have something to look forward to, improve our systems, and be ready for the worst outcomes (productive paranoia). If your goal is to perform at a high level, these are all benefits you'll want to foster. 
 
Now back to you. What's one step you can take today to start scheduling time away from work?

Photo by Jared Sluyter on Unsplash

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