How to get away when you can’t get away
Can’t get away? Try these methods to maintain some work/life balance.
If the idea of vacation seems absolutely impossible for the foreseeable future, you may still be able to take a sorely needed break from your small business. Brief escapes from “business-as-usual” require as little as two hours of your time and can help you maintain the work/life balance that eludes many small business owners.
How you use your time away will determine how much you benefit from it. The most effective breaks revolve around new experiences. Changing your daily routine will challenge your brain’s standard thought processes. Because the human mind grasps new ideas by releasing its hold on old ones, tackling unfamiliar tasks can help brush work-related stress out of sight.
With a little creativity almost anyone can find time to take short breaks. For instance, adding an hour to your typical workday may enable you to leave at 1 p.m. on Fridays. Or you might consider planning a short trip over a holiday weekend, when business contacts are likely to be away. If spending three days away is impossible, consider returning to your job on the third day of the long weekend. Your clients and vendors will still be out of their offices, which will provide for a quiet and productive workday.
After you find time in your schedule for a short break, use the tips below to maximize its value:
Learn something new
Enrolling in continuing education courses can be a low cost and effective way to break the monotony of work. Giving your mind something new to learn will occupy it fully, leaving it little energy to wander back to the office. When selecting a class, look for one that will introduce you to a new skill. Focus on those that require participation, like cooking, repair work, or sailing. Avoid classes aimed at honing a business skill or seminars requiring only passive listening. Many local colleges and high schools offer reasonably priced courses. Contact one in your area to request a catalog.
Spend a day in a soup kitchen or participate in a walk organized by a charitable foundation. Giving something back to your community will increase your self-esteem and give you confidence that you can be a catalyst for change. Your volunteer experience may also offer you a new perspective on your worries and concerns. The Volunteers of America, a nonprofit organization, manages over 160 community-based programs in 220 cities. Representatives are available at 800-899-0089 to discuss programs in your area.
Visit a museum or attend a cultural event
Get out of the office for an afternoon and attend a community event that will motivate you to think in new ways. If you’re a graphic artist, go to a poetry reading. If you’re a business consultant, visit a local art gallery. By varying the content of your activity, you tap into cognitive skills that lie dormant in your everyday routine. This is the equivalent of taking your mental muscles to the gym. Like any good workout, stretching these muscles will leave them refreshed. As an added benefit, you may find the creativity of others inspiring new solutions to old problems.
Get back to nature
Exchanging the four walls of your office for a forest, pond, or field can do wonders for your spirits. A change of scenery forces your mind and body to absorb a new set of stimuli. This automatically refreshes your senses. Your mind frees itself from the pressure of work as it processes new sights, sounds, fragrances, and feelings. Don’ t worry if the Rocky Mountains are out of reach — an afternoon walk in one of your city’s parks can offer the same benefit.
If you’re a small business owner who consistently works fitness into your schedule, congratulations. If not, consider revitalizing sagging energy through exercise. Doctors have long heralded the health benefits of regular workouts, but there are additional reasons to indulge. Regular exercise encourages discipline and goal setting, and sometimes can even provide companionship. For example, national organizations like the Road Runners Club of America (www.rrca.org) dedicate themselves to promoting group athletic events. Exercising with others will help you develop a social network that is not related to your occupation. This is an added bonus for sole practitioners, who often have limited social interaction in their daily routines. If you exercise with a group, try to leave your competitive edge at the office and focus on enjoying the camaraderie.
Become a tourist in your hometown
No need to pay for expensive flights to get away. You can be a tourist in your own town. Find out which exhibits are currently showing at your local museum. Invite a friend or loved one for an afternoon tour — then visit an historic landmark, treat yourself to a manicure, or head to the putting green. When you’re through, check into a local hotel to enjoy a peaceful night away from ringing phones and household chores. A little advance planning can reduce the cost of your excursion. Before you leave, contact your Chamber of Commerce for a list of local attractions and inquire about businesses that offer discounts to tourists.
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