Time to Plan a Break Already?

Happy New Year! As we enter our third calendar year under the shadow of Covid-19, many of us are accustomed to a seemingly never-ending need to adjust and evolve. Each “new normal” doesn’t last long enough to really become normal, and plans – both professional and personal – are all subject to change. The only thing that’s predictable is that unpredictability plays a role in everything.

Of course, this in itself is nothing new. Shortly before the pandemic caused shutdowns for many of us in North America and Europe, we wrote about the benefits of scheduling time in your week for interruptions. If anything, this is even more important now. We’ve all experienced enough interruptions in our daily work life to know that they will occur, and while we don’t know when they will happen, we know that it is a when, not an if. Similarly, we’ve all experienced times each season where we really need time to catch up on projects but we’re unable to because of all the new meetings and commitments we have going on at the same time.

The beginning of a new year brings a chance to take stock and reflect on the practices we want to continue and which we want to end or begin. This might be a good time to be honest with your calendar – how much time do you need to schedule for interruptions each day and each week? These aren’t away-from-work times, but these are times you do not preplan with meetings or project work. Then, if no interruptions show up? Perfect! Use that block of time for ongoing project work.

Just as importantly, consider blocking a full week once per season to use as a break from meetings; a full week for project work, catch-up, and setting yourself up for the next season. Some meetings might be unavoidable, but why not consider blocking off a week in February or March where you do not accept any pre-existing meetings? Doing so creates more space for high quality work, completion of projects, and self-care.

This week’s tip:

Plan ahead for interruptions and seasonal breaks: 

  1. Schedule time on your calendar each day for interruptions. Place it early in your workday; if the interruptions don’t happen then, you can work on some of the projects you’ve got scheduled for later in the day. That later time is then freed up for when the interruptions do happen. And if you’re lucky enough to not have any urgent interruptions that day, use that time to connect with co-workers or clients to build meaningful and productive relationships.
  2. Schedule a ‘seasonal break’ week once each quarter where you decline all meetings that are not pre-existing. Do not schedule other work for this time, but use it as a breathing time to bring closure to anything that needs it, catch-up on anything where you feel behind, and set yourself up well for the following season. Put this on your calendar a couple of months out if possible, to avoid meetings and other commitments from creeping in.

Try this out this week, and let us know how it goes in our Facebook group! If you’d like to learn more about how to schedule your time effectively, read Rosemary Tator and Alesia Latson’s book More Time For You.

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Published by Ian Jackson

Ian Jackson is the founder of Building Bridges Leadership, which works with individuals, teams, and organizations to create authentic community in the workplace. He also writes children's fiction and teaches creative writing.

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