In Favor of Productive Personal Days Off

Tuesday, July 2, 2019 San Francisco, CA, USA

Sometime in my short professional career, I think my manager and I came to an implicit understanding that I would be the best little worker bee of all time on my days on, granted I'd get to take a millennial-y indulgent number of days off. A couple of luxuries make this possible: a fairly autonomous position; an unlimited/flex PTO corporate policy; an established personal brand that I am absolutely not a slacker and am probably doubly productive when out of office. No indications yet that being OOO so often will stunt my career in the long run, but for now these frequent personal days empower my most well-rounded, well-read, well-examined self.
Below, some snippets of one of my favorite days off ever and some tips on making the most of your days away from your desk.

01. Pregame your personal days

One day, somebody will tell me that pregaming an event does not, in fact, refer to the art of writing a to-do list ahead of time. But my idea of a good time is neurotic personal administrative tasks, so here we are. Whenever I anticipate taking a day off, I write an exhaustive list of everything that might be nice to get done - from my non-profit design work to a reformer Pilates class to writing OCL posts. Then I set deadlines and prioritize accordingly. Only 10% of what *could* get done probably should, so my final to-do list tends to be only 3-4 specific tasks from the dozens of options on my radar. For extra credit, highlight the absolutely-need-to-do tasks, but have a few secondary probably-better-to-do action items in case you're more efficient than you thought.

For me, the key to not wasting my days off napping and eating Hot Pockets is to just have absolutely no excuse to stay/go home. Pack a portable office with everything you'll need, from a gym kit to all of your chargers to snacks to that travel watercolor kit you bought in younger, more optimistic days. Because you never know when you might start bursting with the impulse to paint famous urban architecture, idk.

02. Have a go-to indulgence so that a productive day off still feels like a luxury
I honestly couldn't tell you whether I actually enjoy the taste of cold brew or the intellectual aesthetic of one, but my go-to aphrodisiac is an extremely expensive iced coffee that, for around $6, allows me to enjoy the air conditioning, wi-fi, and general energy of a bright, sunny cafe for a couple hours.

I also take the "personal" part of a "personal day" pretty seriously; as with most things, I'm a little *extra* when it comes to self-development and think that we should all take a proactive approach to sorting out our mental health and spiritual growth. On a good day, my AM cold brew is an opportunity for some earnest journaling (see: 4 Journaling Exercises for Self-Actualization), a bit of work on my faith journey - which is still very new - and some pleasure reading. On a less-good day, I probably order a muffin too and scroll through Reddit, which is honestly an okay alternative.

Today, I read Esmé Weijun Wang's The Collected Schizophrenias and re-studied some Scripture about anger management (lol, long story). I also debated getting a CBD Kombucha from Klatch before realizing I'm frankly not cool or interesting enough for that sort of thing.

The aforementioned to-do list can wait; take a couple hours for yourself, whatever that looks like.

03. Try something out of your comfort zone
I don't do this nearly as often as I'd like, though my comfort zone is honestly so tiny that ordering a latte instead of a cold brew is probably a wild move in and of itself. But once in a while, I try to engage in something that gets me excited about a life beyond the gray toil of the corporate world. Last week, I attempted a solo hike (attempted being the operative word because I have zero physical fortitude). Today, it was my first-ever modern calligraphy class with Brown Fox Calligraphy. And as I sit here, post-class, typing away in a library, I'm reminded that keeping art in my life requires a lot of work, but it's always worthwhile and brings me closer to being someone I'm proud of.
Other creative pursuits: Skillshare classes, urban sketching, reading children's books, volunteering/community service, this blog basically, and the vast world of Pinterest DIYs.

I guess what I'm trying to argue about personal days off is that, when taken intentionally, they've helped me combat a lot of burnout and creative restlessness. They have also been the singularly best thing for my most important project: taking care of myself emotionally so that others don't have to. I turn 23 this week, and my chief concern for this next phase of my life is ownership over my happiness, peace, and development. I'm deeply unhappy when I feel defined by a 9-to-5 career; I also can't live without the stability of one. Personal days feel like a happy compromise that have completely revitalized and enhanced every aspect of my career and life beyond it. I can work on myself so that the version of me that shows up to work is a smarter, more empathetic one. I can explore ancillary and random passions, none of which have ever led me to a dull or dark place. And I can inch towards the person I was meant to become -- arguably the most important of all pursuits.

I'll end with this thought from Rilke that resonated today:
Think of the world you carry within you, and call this thinking what you will; whether it be remembering your own childhood or yearning toward your own future – only be attentive to that which rises up in you and set it above everything that you observe about you. What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your whole love; you must somehow keep working at it and not lose too much time and too much courage in clarifying your attitude toward people.

With love always,

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