Why Aren’t You on the Beach? Six Tips to Surviving Spring Break in the Office

First of all, I apologize for asking—I know it’s a sensitive subject.  Hey, maybe you are planning an extended vacation in the summer to make up for it, or else you are just too busy—again.

You know that taking a vacation is good for your health, and you are aware of the paradox that Canada ranks third last among developed nations in paid vacation time. Unfortunately, for one reason or another you are not going to account for one of the nearly four million trips that Canadians make to Mexico, Cuba, Dominican Republic and Jamaica alone this year. 


Spring Break in the Office Survival Guide

If you are putting off your vacation, and it’s been a while since you’ve had some time off you might very well begin experiencing some of the tell-tale signs of an oncoming burnout: increased irritability, a lack of satisfaction with your achievements, less creativity, and even physical symptoms like frequent headaches and/or back pain (the kind that only sitting in a beach chair sipping a margarita can remedy). While you should get cracking on planning to take time off in the near future, the following tips can help you manage your current vacation-deficit in the meantime.

1. Shake Up Your Routine.

Nothing’s more exhausting than monotony—if your work looks the same each day, you’re sure to tire quickly,” says Adelaide Lancaster of Forbes. “Change up your routine with some rejuvenating work-related tasks such as reading, taking a field trip, or meeting a colleague. The list and the laptop can wait until later.” Even something as simple as an afternoon working from home or in a coffee shop can help.

2. Get Enough Rest.

I know you have heard this one, and if you had more time you would probably get your eight hours of rest each night.  But even if you are busy, are you sure you have your priorities straight?  Christine Carter of the University of California at Berkely asks, “What are your other priorities? Your health? Your happiness? Productivity and success at work? Raising happy and healthy children? Well, here’s the truth: you will not fulfill your potential in any of these realms unless you get the sleep your body, brain, and spirit needs. We are not computers, able to run continuously.”

And, in addition to getting more sleep, take more breaks. After two hours of high output activity we need at least 10 minutes of rest in order to continue to function optimally.

3. Get Rid of Time-Wasters.

If you are like me, you often wonder how people can be so busy but still manage to fit 10 hours of internal meetings into their schedule—especially for those who are not in management positions. Janine Popick of Inc.com challenges us to ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Do I really need that meeting or can I just walk over to someone and get to the bottom of an issue?
  • Do I really need to “take it offline” in a meeting? To me that means another meeting.
  • Do I need to check my email continuously all day long?

If you really want to be more productive stop scheduling so many internal meetings, and try to put off checking your email for a few hours.  After all, if something is really urgent the person will find another way to get in touch with you, but the majority of the time they do not need or expect an immediate reply.

4. Ultimate Frisbee, Anyone?

I have actually never tried ultimate frisbee—but maybe I should.  When people ask me whether I have any interests outside of work I can spout off a lengthy list. Ask me what hobbies I am actually engaged in right now and I shut up in a hurry.

I do manage to make it to the gym four times per week, but aside from that… well, does tweeting from my iPad count as a hobby? Susie Cushner of RealSimple.com warns people like me, “If your self-worth and identity is solely based on your work, you’re at a high risk of burnout.  Devoting time to your interests outside of work will not only make you happier, but it will make you a well-rounded individual.”

And if you have put off exercise to work longer hours you are probably already “well-rounded”—but not in the way you’d like to be.

5. When was the Last Time You Learned Something?

Jill Geisler a business coach with Poynter warns that employees often feel less engaged when they are not learning something new.

“Training is the first casualty of tough economic times, but smart managers persevere—finding everything from peer coaching to scholarships to bake sales to offset training costs,” she says. “And don’t tell me you don’t have time to release someone for training. Just pretend. Pretend that the person who is away today getting smarter is actually home sick. The business wouldn’t shut down because of that sick day, would it?”

6. Don’t Let this Happen Again.

Finally, while the above tips may have just saved you from burning out while your boss is on vacation this spring and you are left staring outside your office window wondering whether winter will ever end–be forewarned: this will creep up on you again if you don’t do something about it. So take action! Just remember, if you are looking to book flights for a trip abroad the best day of the week to book is Tuesday, according to farecompare.com and avoid travel dates on Friday and Saturday—that’s a no-brainer.

Until then, stop checking your email so often, get more rest, take frequent breaks, and join a gym or rec league. I have a flight to catch.