TL; DR: Take leave even when there doesn’t seem to be a reason to.
Late last year I received an email from the HR department of my part-time employer. I’d accrued too much leave and needed to reduce the balance by taking some time off.
I looked back and realised that I’d only taken two days of annual leave in 2020.
Now, 2020 was an odd year. The pandemic started shutting things down in March. I worked from home for a good chunk of the 5 months following that. And then on and off for the rest of the year as lockdowns and precautionary closures took place.
I’m not a huge traveller, in fact, I went overseas for the first time in late 2019. But generally I’ll take interstate trips for conferences, to see family, or go to the footy in Melbourne. However, in 2020, with border closures and not many in-person events happening, there was nothing to trigger me to take leave. And though I only work in that job part-time, I run my own business on the side. By the time HR gave me the heads up, I was already beginning to feel burnt out.
So I took some leave at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 which was fantastic. But I realised I needed to go a step further. At the beginning of 2021, it was still unclear what effect the pandemic would have on travel and events. But I booked my leave anyway. I booked a week in March, two weeks in June, and a week in September. I did this knowing that I could change it if I needed to, for example, if I wanted to travel somewhere at a different time. But I realised I needed to book it in or else another year might go by without me taking a break.
It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. As I approach my September break, I’m ready for a breather. I can safely say that I wouldn’t have taken any leave so far if I hadn’t pre-planned it. But we need to give ourselves time to just stop and rest, more so than ever in these challenging times.
So I encourage you, if you are able, to book in some leave periods for yourself. If you haven’t taken any this year, please try to squeeze in a week in September or October, before the craziness of the festive season begins. It will rejuvenate you and hopefully give you the energy to see out the year with a bit of a spark, rather than burnt out.
And start thinking about 2022 if you haven’t already. Can you book ahead and plan out some rest for yourself?
Share your thoughts with me, and share this post or tag someone if you think they need to take a break!
And lastly, yes, I recognise my privilege in being able to take paid leave and I respect that not everyone has this opportunity. I’m incredibly grateful for it, and that’s part of the reason why I encourage those who can do it to do it.
Image: a hand-drawn calendar page for September 2021, with several days marked as ‘LEAVE’ days.