Friday, June 17, 2011

making the most of days off

Days off from work are a treasured time for me. Extra time with my son, extra time to get something done. I think about them for weeks, plan, day dream and prepare to-do lists for the special day. Even before I had my son I would have high expectations and then be disappointed at the end of the day because I did not accomplish all that I wanted to. I still have unreasonable expectations for days off. I've just recently learned the secret to making the most of my days off. Planning is helpful, to-do lists are helpful, but the real secret is:

lower your expectations

Then, at the end of the day you will either be happy that you accomplished your goals or be really really happy that you exceeded your goals. Setting one or two goals that you are more likely to reach will leave you feeling refreshed and successful. Focusing on a limited number of tasks helps me start and finish them rather than starting a bunch and finishing few.

Earlier this year, when this concept had not yet crossed my mind, I would draft a long to-do list that included things that needed to be done, would be nice if they got done and some leisurely activities. Everything from baby time to errands, chores, organizational projects, home improvement projects, cooking, exercising....clearly unreasonable....all with a baby on my hip. Surely I could tackle these in 8 hours! At the end of the day when one or even none of my goals were met, I would feel like I squandered my time. I would feel exhausted because I had been running around doing bits and pieces of tasks but had nothing to show for it.

One day I told myself I'm going to get this one thing done. That's it. When I completed the task AND played with my son without the nagging to-do list haunting me, I felt....great. refreshed. like I had a nice balance of productivity mixed with quality mommy-son time.

I make the most of my days off by having low to medium expectations and finding a comfortable balance of to-do's, relaxation and family time. Days off don't have to be about getting ahead or wearing yourself out. Here are some ideas on finding that balance:

  1. Set one or two attainable goals. Write them down in a visible place.
  2. Break up the day. Maybe in the morning you work really hard on your task, then, in the afternoon you relax.
  3. Force yourself to stop after the tasks have been completed. You'll be glad you did.
  4. Stretch the balance between days off. Have one day off be all work and the next day off be all play. 
  5. Resist the urge to get ahead. 

How do you make the most of your days off?

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