I’ve had the good fortune over the past little while to spend my time in a different setting, breaking free of my routine. In a different country, in fact. I didn’t take a vacation (or at least most of my time hasn’t been time off); I’ve been working. But this break from the routine has me thinking about how important it is to step back once in a while. To use different physical surroundings to gain greater perspective on your life.
Much needed time away
For me, this time away was a long time coming. I wasn’t able to travel when I was caring for my partner at the end of his life. And then, after his passing, just as I was about to take some time away … the pandemic hit. I’ve been needing and wanting to get away for a very, very long time.
Despite all its challenges, life in 2023 has some distinct advantages. When I first started in the recruiting business, if I had wanted to spend a few weeks – let alone a month – away from my home and office, I would have needed to take that time off. Sure, I could have checked in with staff and clients by phone, but my ability to do much more than that would have been very limited.
That’s not the case today. As long as I have access to a decent wifi connection, I can be as productive as I choose to be. All the documents I need to do my work are at my fingertips. A meeting is as close as a Zoom call.
So I took the opportunity that life today affords. I removed myself from my normal day to day setting, I got out of my element, and I also did take some time off completely. But otherwise, I stayed productive, working for most of my time away. But even that work felt … different, somehow.
Change is as good as a rest
Anyone who knows me knows that I love my work. But even when you love your work, you still need downtime. To relax, recharge, and regroup. So you can be at your best for your business clients, for your family and friends, and for yourself.
A vacation isn’t the only way to do this. There’s a lot of truth to the saying that a change is as good as a rest. Doing the same work in an entirely different setting is rejuvenating in its own way.
The reason? Our routines don’t just dictate our schedule. They also influence our thought patterns. And a change in thought patterns is energizing.
You’re probably accustomed to getting up at a certain time, doing a set of things in a fairly predictable order, and then starting your work day in more or less the same way each day. Routine is helpful. Imagine if you had to think about every single one of those activities, and remind yourself to do them, before you did them. Autopilot takes care of that for us.
But autopilot has a downside. When we follow that same routine, day in and day out, we can’t effectively step back from that perspective to see the wider possibilities. Shaking up your established patterns allows you to do exactly that.
Intrigued? I’d like to share a few ideas on breaking out of that routine.
We don’t always have the opportunity to take weeks at a time, or even longer, away from our work. The good news is that you don’t have to.
In my case, I had the good fortune to be able to leave the country for an extended period of time. I had accommodations in a place that is warm when my home is cold. Where part of my new routine was spending time near a pool, and on a beach. I used the technology tools available to me to stay busy and productive, working with clients and candidates in almost the same way I would have at home.
I understand, though, that not everyone has that level of flexibility. Your job, and your life circumstances, might not allow you to do the same. There are a lot of ways you can reach the same end, though. Ways that don’t involve bailing on your usual life for a month.
Work from home
If you typically do your job from an office, consider seeking the ability to work from home for a defined period of time. Maybe a week or two. Instead of the time you would have spent commuting, form a new daily habit. Instead of grabbing takeout or eating at your desk, cook a meal for yourself and eat with intention, and without the distraction of emails and social media. Create a practice that mindfully separates your workday from your evening at home.
We generally accept that a workday starts in the morning and ends around dinner time. Have you wondered whether that’s your most creative or productive time? If you’re an early riser anyway, what would happen if you started working at 5am and ended in the early afternoon? If you’re more of a night owl, what would change if you started work mid-afternoon and finished up when others are heading to bed?
Use a co-working space
In just about every city, there are spaces where you can rent an office, or even just a desk, for a period of time. They’ve got wifi access, and most other comforts of an office space. But they’ve got different views than you’re used to, and different people than you’re used to working with. Even if this space is in the same city as your office, don’t underestimate the impact that these differences can have on your thought patterns. Oh, and a bonus: your fellow co-workers might just be valuable additions to your network, offering a fresh perspective of their own.
Rent a cottage
The trees and forest don’t have to be strictly metaphorical. If you do have the ability to spend time away from your home, like I did, you don’t necessarily have to leave the country. There are plenty of getaway properties that offer the solitude of nature, while still keeping you as connected as you need to be by wifi. It could be for a couple of weeks or just a few days. This kind of radical shift in your surroundings can give you a much broader perspective, surprisingly quickly.
One catch: on any and all of these possibilities, remember to check your employment terms to make sure your plans won’t violate them. For example, some companies allow remote work, but only from within the same province or country. If there are stipulations like that in your contract, you need to either abide by them or request a temporary exception.
Seeing the forest for the trees
If you want to go a bit further, though, I’ve got some ideas for you on that front. When you change your routine, the effect can be magnified if you also introduce new habits. Habits that just might ‘stick’, and stay with you when you re-enter business as usual.
Instead of a morning and evening commute, you might go for a walk. No devices, music, podcasts, or other distractions. Just a quiet walk noticing your surroundings.
You could choose to start the day with an hour of reading. A book, that is, not your social media feeds.
Meditation, or some other mindfulness practice, is a very healthy way to begin or end a work day.
Journaling is a remarkably effective way to gather and organize your thoughts. This kind of practice can give you greater clarity and understanding about any aspect of your life or work. The insights can arrive quite unexpectedly when you’re allowing the words to ‘tumble’ out of your head and onto the page.
Or, you could begin a self-coaching practice, working with intention through challenges and obstacles you’re dealing with in your work, your career, or your life generally.
These are only a few of the possibilities you may consider, and you might have other ideas. The takeaway here is that putting yourself into new settings or circumstances creates the opportunity to incorporate new, healthy habits. These habits may stay with you when you return to your norm, but even if they don’t, they’ll increase the value you receive from your time away.
As I return to my own norm, with my routines and rituals, I feel fortunate and grateful, and rejuvenated. I’ve refilled my cup, as the saying goes. I sincerely hope that you consider taking the opportunity to do something similar in your life. Whatever that shift looks like for you. If self-coaching is one of the practices you choose to introduce into your life, I think that’s great.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that self-coaching can only take you so far. The benefits of working with a trained, objective coach can’t be overstated. If you’re interested in learning more about my coaching practice, and whether it might be right for you, get in touch and let’s talk.