We all know that taking time off work yields strong benefits, but we still struggle to build downtime into our lives. What are the positives of taking a holiday from work?

Experts believe we become more motivated, experience higher levels of creativity and can be much more productive than we would be without the break. So what’s the opportunity over this holiday to recharge your batteries and maximise the rewards when you get back to business in 2016?

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Define downtime

The first step is to clarify what downtime actually is. It’s easy to compare its effects to a good night’s sleep. If you’re stressed, confronted with a problem, or feeling unable to progress past an issue in your day, it’s often true that a solid sleep will give you the energy you need to resolve your problems. Stress is eased, problems seem to become easier to deal with, and the energy you’ve gained leaves you feeling capable of moving past issues.

A proper holiday can recharge you in the same way – but on a larger scale. And the important thing to clarify is that this really needs to be a break, not just reduced hours of work which might rest you but are unlikely to fully recharge you. Try for a minimum of 3 days (ideally a lot more). Plan not to work but accept that you will still find yourself thinking about it. Don’t let work thoughts occupy your mind. If you have important ideas jot them down for later, and then park everything else and focus on your holiday.

Time to switch off

Taking time off work is easy to talk about but difficult to do. The more important you are to your business: the more challenging it can be to make time for yourself. Plan ahead and work out what the minimum level of contact would be for you to stay informed while still taking a break. You can then choose to proactively or reactively inform people of your availability. Switch off anything that connects you to your business outside this time and you’re doing a great job of getting real downtime from your work.

A business leader shared with us how he manages his inbox over the holiday: “I set up my out of office to state that I will be away and upon my return I will delete all emails received during my absence. If the sender would like a response they can send their email again once I am back in the office. It works a treat and stops me worrying about how long it’s going to take me to deal with all the emails I get while I’m away. If they’re important, they get re-sent.”

Take a look at the benefits

Taking a well-earned break is recognised to dramatically boost productivity. Resting your brain will allow any issues or challenges to percolate through and you should soon start producing solutions. This is a great opportunity to apply some creativity to the issues at hand and begin new initiatives to drive your business forward.

Focus your energy

Having invested time in recharging your brain, it’s incredibly important that you take your creative power and use it to your advantage. Before you take your holiday it’s worthwhile investing some time in understanding what you would like to achieve when you come back. Tasks like building strategies and big picture thinking could be a great use of your creative energy.

By working out exactly what you would like to achieve when you return, you can help to avoid becoming distracted by reactive tasks that will drain your energy but require little creative or strategic input. The other exciting benefit of your planning is that your brain will be primed for the area of focus that you choose. You will probably find that as you start to feel more rested, ideas and suggestions present themselves for dealing with this next challenge. Keep your notepad close at hand to capture them.

Keep your brain revitalised

There is agreement amongst experts about the value of taking a proper holiday and the positive impact it has on areas like stress, problem solving and creativity. Those same experts often also maintain that it is important to take regular breaks and time away from work on a daily and weekly basis. When you come back to work after your break, why not take 15 minutes to review your working week and pick some ways to create downtime and recharge your brain. Splitting your working time into manageable chunks and having short breaks in between them can keep your mind fresh across a day.

Making sure you don’t allow your working days to occupy your evenings and enjoying some mind-boosting activities will give you more chance of recharging before you return to the office the next day. Experts like Dale Carnegie place great importance on developing the ability to park your challenges and appreciate downtime. The working equivalent of sleeping on it – it basically means that you can attack your challenges fresh in the morning with a rested mind.

The festive season offers hard working business people a great chance to relax with loved ones and take time to reflect on and celebrate all the successes in the year that has passed. It also provides a great opportunity to take a well-earned rest and recharge your mental batteries. It’s incredible the transformation your brain can undergo if it gets the chance to rest and recuperate. And that will leave you returning to work in 2016, more able to face and attack the challenges of building and growing your business success.

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