• Sarah Robertson Miller

How to Take Time Off as a Leader



Oh, the quiet solitude of winter. Look around, and you’ll quickly see that this time of year is the world’s invitation to slow down, take things at a more leisurely pace, and give your body, mind, and spirit a chance to recharge from the year that has passed. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? Aren’t you easily slipping into relaxation, ready to disconnect with the world around you and reconnect with yourself?


I didn’t think so.


For most of us leaders, our winter months are no less hectic than any other time of the year. Even in a year like 2020, the pressure to be active, get things done, and work toward our accomplishments with as much vigor as we did before we started living through a global pandemic doesn’t go away.


You may be staring down a long list of work deadlines, performance reviews, end of the year closeout activities, and goal setting for 2021. (Not to mention the need to do some holiday shopping and plan a few activities with your family.) If rest and relaxation feel like the furthest thing from your mind, you’re not alone (and we have some ideas).


We live in a society that tells us we must always be doing something, which rewards achievement above almost everything else. But let’s take a reality check. What if I told you that prioritizing rest would make all of the other things on your list easier? What if, by taking time to rest, you’d actually increase your productivity, creativity, and performance?


I’m serious.


But, as with all things, your mindset comes first. The most significant shift you can make is to start seeing rest as an essential part of getting things done. Everything in your life — from the seasons to your body to creative projects — all exists in cycles. When you disregard a critical phase of that cycle, you make all other stages harder than they need to be. So, begin to consider how rest benefits you and those around you to shift your perspective.


Once you’re clear about prioritizing rest, you’re ready to make a plan.


As a leader, you have people, projects, and deliverables that depend on you, so your periods of rest and disconnection require preparation. Look ahead at your calendar and block out the weeks, days, or even hours that you’re planning to take to yourself. Commit, and then communicate with your team about what that means for them. Consider who can support you and what projects you need to account for when you’re out. If you’re the boss, perhaps you can consider setting a break period for your whole team or organization so that you can truly step away.


As your time off nears, set up boundaries that are supportive to you and your professional life. It may not be possible for you to unplug for long periods completely, and that’s okay. Don’t let “perfect” be the enemy of the good, and look for ways to be flexible with your time off. For example, can you check emails or call a team member once or twice a day? Can you give one team member permission to contact you in case of a real emergency (but otherwise turn off all emails and texts)? You may not get the full break you want or deserve, but every bit counts.


Finally, as a leader, remember that you are setting an example for your team when you prioritize rest. I have no doubt that you care about the people you work with and that you understand how essential it is for them to take care of themselves, too. How you take care of yourself is their best signal for what you value and expect from them. Make sure your actions align with your intentions for your team and company culture.


This year has been a doozy, and you deserve some time to rest — especially as a leader. Ready, but not sure what to do with your time off? Read this next.