Need a Recharge? Give Yourself a Time-Out
I’m a sucker for a fresh start. A new year, a new week—whatever it may be. When I recently changed jobs, I was thrilled to have the clean slate it would bring; the chance to be whoever I wanted to be.
In getting ready for the new gig I updated my wardrobe and changed my makeup routine. I decided to finally commit to bringing my lunch from home (and I have a cabinet full of plastic food storage containers to prove it). I picked out the perfect planner to help me reach all my newfound career goals and, of course, the coordinating desk accessories. But what mattered most was on the inside. I had the chance to redefine myself. Here was this opportunity to shed any of the expectations or disappointments from my last job, to rid myself of any of their negativity or grievances and move forward. The chance to live up to my full potential.
I wanted to make the most of the opportunity (which I affectionately dubbed “Operation Fresh Start”). As I prepped for my first day at work, I started looking back at all the other “firsts” in my life for a bit of inspiration. What made these moments so special, other that they were the first of something new? What made them stand out? What made me appreciate these moments more than all the others? I realized something they all had in common; not just that they were first of something, but that my enthusiasm was fueled by taking a break. From summer holidays leading up to the first day of school, to a regular two-day weekend that kickstarted the first day of a new week, that time off and space apart fed my excitement to come back to what I loved.
So, rather than letting my excitement rush me into my new dream job, I took three weeks off. Three weeks to refresh and reset. Three weeks of organizing my life and traveling and prepping for the new gig. Three weeks to figure out exactly who I wanted to be in this next chapter. And it may just be the best thing I did in 2018.
A few years ago, I had a friend going through a similar transition. She was torn about jumping right into her new job, wondering whether she should take some time off first. Over lunch she asked me, “If you were in my shoes, and you took the time off, where would you go?” Without missing a beat I told her I’d go to Yosemite and take a step back; take the time to remind myself of who I am outside of a job description. Fast-forward three weeks, and I found myself hiking Half Dome with her.
Some people will tell you to travel and get some perspective between jobs. Others will tell you to get your affairs in order at home, or spend some time with family. But ultimately, it’s about what fuels your soul, not theirs. The truth is, you’re never going to be more unplugged than you are during that time; you don’t even have a work email to obsessively check. Millennials work longer hours and take less vacation than any other generation, and millennial women are even less likely to take time off than their male counterparts, due to our more “pronounced guilt” and feelings that we “don’t want to burden people with our time away.” If you’re facing a gap between opportunities, take advantage of this opportunity to take that vacation you’ve been pining after. This is your chance to recharge, to do some soul searching and some sightseeing.
It doesn’t need to be a whirlwind trip backpacking around Europe. For me and my friend, a quick three-day trip to Yosemite was all we needed to gain a little perspective. I spent part of my three weeks recharging over pinot in Napa and reimagining my life over Old Fashioneds in New York. Maybe you can only manage a long weekend off between jobs—that’s OK, too. Look into solo retreats, like yoga or writing; finally go visit that friend who lives far away and always comes to you; get back to nature and go camping (or glamping, if that’s not your scene); pay it forward and look at some fun, remote volunteer opportunities; plan a quick road trip and check out some great Airbnbs; or see where your favorite band is playing next, and figure out how to get there. Still stuck? Start with flight sales and go from there.
But, maybe you’re not looking to travel. You’re about to start a new adventure—it’s perfectly OK if you don’t want to make your time off another adventure, too. During my time off, the best thing I did for myself was taking time at home to feel ready for this new chapter of my life. Sure, I did some travel in those three weeks, but the time I spent in my apartment was just as valuable as my time in Napa and New York City.
I’m the kind of person who can’t work from home if my apartment is messy, so a lot of those three weeks was spent setting myself up for ease of mind. During my time off I vowed I’d take care of all the “messy closets” in my life. I went through my finances. I reorganized my kitchen cabinets. (I even cleaned out my actual messy closets). It was easily the best use of my time off. If you’re short on time (or if what I’m describing sounds a bit more your speed than a spontaneous trip, here are a few more ideas): deep clean your home (or hire someone else to do it); go through your closet and donate anything that doesn’t bring you joy, or host a clothing swap with friends; clean out your fridge and pantry, and restock with healthy (non-expired) options that fuel your next chapter; treat yourself to a spa day (or at least a haircut—and maybe a manicure); visit your local plant nursery and come home with a few new plant children; refresh your wardrobe with smart future-focused pieces; look into online courses and refresh your skills—or get a few new ones—before starting the new job. Still have an itch to explore? Try being a tourist in your own city for a day. Regardless of how long you’ve lived there, there’s something new you haven’t yet seen.
Go ahead and ask for a later start date so you can give yourself some time off. A week, two weeks, three if you’re feeling brave. Take a deep breath and put those negotiating skills to work. (Remember, you’re already the candidate they want.) Before you rush into a new job, take the time to fall back in love with yourself. Know you’re amazing—and totally worth the wait.
Mandy spends her days working in public relations, specializing in sustainability and corporate responsibility - a job which not only fuels her soul but also pays her San Francisco rent. She spends her (virtually nonexistent) free time exploring the Bay Area craft beer scene, working on her rock collection and wishing her cat would be the big spoon sometimes. For additional sass and details of her life held together by caffeine and dry shampoo, follow her on twitter at @WayToRepresent.