Deep breath, everyone: the end of 2020 is in sight.
Many people have spent the year working harder than they ever have, while others have sadly lost their jobs or seen a significant reduction in income.
Now, to complicate our working lives even further, many companies are telling their employees they need to take their unused annual leave from this year now, as they can’t carry it over to 2021.
This begs the question: what are you supposed to do with time off in 2020?
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Obviously, during a pandemic, our options are limited. Many parts of the country are subject to pretty tough restrictions – and even in areas where indoor activities such as visiting a gallery or going to the cinema are permitted, some people might not feel comfortable doing so.
In this strange situation, having days off could leave you spiralling, unsure of how to fill your time. And if you work from home, you may feel the urge to open your laptop and just reply to one email. Or maybe two. And before you know it, you might as well have spent the whole day at work.
We asked some experts how you can make the most of your time off, even when you’re (mostly) confined to your house…
Don’t try and be productive
Time off is time off for a reason – you need it.
‘It’s easy to forget to take annual leave or think you don’t need the break, particularly if you’re working from home,’ says Sandy Wilkie, head of organisational effectiveness at Greenhill HR. ‘But you deserve it, particularly after the year that was 2020.’
So, mute your work WhatsApp, set up an out-of-office email, and definitely don’t feel as though you need to use this time to work on your side hustle.
Immerse yourself in an activity
If you have to look at a screen all day for your job, pick something to do that takes you firmly out of that space.
‘It’s really easy to default to TV, yet more screen time,’ says Barnaby Lashbrooke, CEO of Time Etc and author of productivity book The Hard Work Myth.
‘Instead, try writing a list of screen-free activities you enjoy – reading, writing cards and letters, listening to audiobooks and podcasts, cooking or baking, gardening, crafts, painting, drawing or music. These will stimulate the brain in different ways.’
On the other hand, if you don’t get to work from home, or your job involves standing on your feet all day, you might be craving some screen time. So consider this permission to put your feet up, make a cup of tea and binge-watch The Queen’s Gambit – you deserve it.
It’s time to embrace the great outdoors. And we don’t just mean a quick morning stroll along the same three streets you’ve been walking since March.
‘Being outside, especially in nature offers the mind and body a real boost,’ says Sandy. ‘Whatever tier of restrictions you’re in, you can still spend as much time as you like outside.’
So, wrap up warm, bring a coffee, meet a friend, sit on a bench, cycle somewhere really far away… just make the most of it. And if there are any outdoor markets in your area, you could even get some Christmas shopping done.
Plan, plan, plan
Fail to prepare and prepare to fail, they say, and this is definitely true of time off during a pandemic. Have a clear itinerary, and know exactly what you’re going to do and when – you can even block out chunks of time on your Google calendar if you need to.
‘As tempting as it is to squeeze 101 things into a week off, what works for me is making a list at the beginning of the week of what I want to achieve, and when I’d like to complete it by,’ says Hannah, a small business owner.
‘I list a maximum of three things per day, and making sure I plan in some down time and quality time with my family is a must.’
So, there you have it – annual leave in 2020 is all about switching off, spending as much time with loved ones as you can, and making time for activities that feed your soul. Your beach holiday will be waiting for you next year.
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