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Summary:

Okay, I don’t really like that phrase, “mental health day,” but the idea behind it is very important and relevant to every web worker. We all need time away from our work and businesses, time to collect our thoughts, get some breathing room, and get away from the computer screen and the sometimes very close walls of our offices.

It may not seem important, but taking time away from our work has just as big an impact on our productivity as putting in a full day. It’s not just about the quantity of hours we devote to the job, but the quality. How much of the time that we’re spending on our work is effective and productive, if we never take time to get away from it?

We need time off, and it’s important to make a conscious choice to include it in our to-do lists and schedules. But, what do you do on “mental health days” anyway? The main thing to remember is that your time away from your business needs to be restorative. It needs to help energize you and inspire you. It shouldn’t be filled with tasks that are as taxing and monotonous as work.

Here are a few other ideas to help you improve your use of time off.

relax I don’t really like the phrase, “mental health day,” but the idea behind it is very important and relevant to every web worker. We all need time away from our work and businesses. Time to collect our thoughts, get some breathing room, and get away from the computer screen.

It may not seem important, but taking time away from our work has just as big an impact on our productivity as putting in a full day. It’s not just about the quantity of hours we devote to our jobs, but the quality. How much of the time that we’re spending on our work is going to be effective and productive if we never take time to get away from it?

We all need time off, so it’s important to make a conscious choice to include it in our to-do lists and schedules. But what do you do on “mental health days,” anyway? The main thing to remember is that your time away from your business needs to be restorative. It needs to help energize you and inspire you. It shouldn’t be filled with tasks that are as taxing and monotonous as work.

Here are a few ideas to help you improve your use of time off.

It Has to Be 100 Percent Work-free.

Free time has to be just that, free. Don’t spend your time on work-related tasks, even those that don’t really seem like work (thinking of the direction you want to take with your business, blogging, writing, reading blogs, etc.). No, this time should be spent on things that are the complete opposite of work. Avoid the office and computer altogether, so that there’s no temptation to do “just one little thing” that turns into several hours.

Fill the Day With Physical Activity.

Exercise and other physically demanding tasks are a good way to use free time. This type of activity gets your mind off all your regular demands, builds up your energy levels, and reduces your stress. Bike, hike, walk, dance or play a sport. It doesn’t matter what you choose. Just make sure it involves a lot of movement.

Plan Your Day Around a Meal.

Cook a meal from scratch. Bake cookies or desserts all afternoon with your kids, nieces and nephews, or a good friend. Cooking can be very therapeutic and relaxing. It takes all your attention and distracts you from workaday life.

Spend the Time With Friends and Family.

Web workers can feel particularly isolated at times, so it’s important to intentionally plan time for a social life. Go out for coffee with a friend (or better yet, invite them over for coffee and save some money). Go for a walk at a local park or recreation area. Throw a potluck and invite several friends or family members who you rarely get to see. Even just making time to call a relative can make you feel connected.

Your time away from work should be about having fun, relaxing and generating the energy you need to tackle your days. It’s not a guilty pleasure, but a necessity for staying productive and fully engaged in your business.

How do you spend your “mental health days”? Share your ideas for staying motivated and energized by taking time off.

Image from Flickr by epSos.de

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By Amber Singleton Riviere

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  1. All great advice. Combine the lot – pack some easyily prepared food and a disposable BBQ in a ruck-sack and cycle with your family to somewhere nice. Have BBQ picnic with relatives. Cycle back, sleep well and remember that because tomorrow is Wednedsay why your got into freelancing in the first place.

    This doesn’t work so well in the winter though. ;)

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  2. Nice tips!
    I agree that you should have some sort of break in this work specially when you are the only author for your blog. Because posting stuff on blog just for the sake of keeping it alive may affect quality of posts.
    So its always better to have some time off the scrren in any form whichever is suitable to you.

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  3. it’s a great article. I work in mental health – not direct work anymore – more at the policy and strategy end of things.
    I think it’s easy to talk about this – but not really follow through or build it in as our day to day practice. I think more needs to be done at an organisational level. Business policy should support everyone taking better care of their mental health. Financially it’s a good investment – sick leave and being unfit and at work is costly.
    Its also twofold – the more a workplace is supportive of postive mental health the more those who have experienced poor mental health will be able to return to work – fully supported.
    Thanks for raising this – mental health is everyone’s business :)

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  4. Thanks for reminding me I need a mental health day. I’ve been so busy the past couple of weeks that it’s getting harder and harder to work normally-it’s like I’ve worked myself retarded or something!

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  5. @ Steven – I agree, we have to remember why we’re working for ourselves in the first place, and if we can’t be flexible, why are we doing this? I love taking days off in the middle of the week. I’m able to beat the crowds that way! :)

    @ VirginTech – I definitely agree that you need time away from writing. I think that’s one of the most taxing tasks of all. Being in front a computer all day is exhausting at times and mentally draining, too.

    @ dysconnection – I agree. Everyone is so focused on work all the time. It’s not healthy. We all need regularly scheduled time to get away from it all. It helps our productivity anyway. I’m not sure why we don’t see that all the time.

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  6. These are great reminders. It’s true that your productivity will increase if you take more time off. In addition to mental health days, it also helps to take part of the day off to get some exercise, meet up with someone, cook a meal or whatever else gets your focus off of work. When you return to work, you’ll find that inspiration comes much easier after switching activities for a while.

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  7. Just reading my feeds after taking a mental health day myself. I enjoyed a day at the beach with my family. I had been very unproductive at work lately, and I do feel invigorated and ready for a more productive day tomorrow.

    It was a bit of a whim, as I had a slow day and it was beautiful weather. It’s much harder for me to follow through on this when it’s busy.

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  8. Taking time for yourself will definitely increase your productivity. People cannot be 100% productive all the time

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  9. Amber Riviere Thursday, August 6, 2009

    @ Corbett – Good tips. It’s definitely a good idea to get out and be with others at some point each day to break up the monotony of working online.

    @ Emily – Good for you! It sounds like you had a nice break from things.

    @ Anca – Thanks for the added resource. I’ll have to check it out.

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  10. [...] The Fix: As Aliza noted before, it’s important to have a contingency plan in place. This will allow you to deal with any work related emergencies that you can’t deal with on your own. Don’t forget to take care of your health in the first place — including your mental health. [...]

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