Being productive and motivated over the summer can be tough. Do you do coworking, staycation or you’d rather work and then detox completely even if for a short while? Let’s see how I deal with days off – and what are the options for each one of us busylancers.
Summer is here – after a long winter, we can say it’s here (OK, maybe in Britain it won’t last that long but we can dream, right?) and even though I’m not a tan girl I do like my warmer days and my shorter skirts with no tights.
It’s not all fashion tough. Most freelancers tend to take holidays in unusual periods – my interpreting season makes sure I have to take them in the more conventional months of August and December but the nature of the job never guarantees when you’ll have certified downtime. I believe it’s up to us to plan ahead and maybe let it go when it comes to do it to be healthy. The main issue though is not when you go away, but rather IF you go away at all. Maybe you’ll laugh at this and go all ‘of course I take days off, I’m not mental!’ but hey, I know of many cases when this does not come easy.
Time off does count – I’m actually ‘counting down’ to mine so I’m doing all the work here – and the list of reasons why is fairly long. I’m sure you all are up-to-date with these, but here comes a reminder, with my cherry-picked why-to-go-on-a-break elements:
- mental peace
- physical idleness
- good food and cycles
- family time
- vitamin D
- creativity boost
- cultural nurturing
- language reviving
- reading time
- avoiding burnout
- loving to come back even more.
What are the options out there?
Staycation / Short breaks – this is a good alternative to an abroad trip, esp. considering how often I come across people who have travelled the world but have seen or explored very little of their own countries or regions. (I’m one of those, never having been to Naples or Sicily…)
If you plan ahead you can keep motivation levels high and find good offers to travel cheap – in the UK I can think of Edinburgh as a perfect 3-day getaway – imagine 5 hrs on a scenic view train and you can sleep, chat or work on the way there. Cornwall is the ideal staycation – borderline full detox simply because phone coverage is very poor almost anywhere 😀 – I love and recommend Polzeath and St. Ives – I stayed in St Moritz Hotel.
Coworking – motivation can run short when you work from home or in isolation. I prefer to not get distracted by others – I can be very chatty and curious – but some colleagues find it stimulating to be around others, especially when they work in other departments or other industries. Some good coworking spaces offer affordable fees, lovely central spots and venues and are fully serviced. WeWork is just one example with several locations in Central London. The formula is very successful and I know of colleagues who really like the whole “office vibe” scene.
Working holiday – this is pretty much what I had been doing in the first years of my career. I used to leave the UK for 3-4 weeks every summer, to go home to Tuscany and see my family. That amount of time for a freelancer who’s not on a maternity leave or a gap year is just a LOT to take in one go. But with today’s mobile offices, it’s OK and feasible to go away and do stuff, and still be working when required. Several colleagues do this on a regular basis, and I like to call them nomadlancers: they typically move – every 3-4 months – to a new place, possibly exotic or far away from home, for different reasons: inspiration, language practice, love and friends… My dear friend Rafaela Mota Lemos spent her time between New York, Rio and Italy over a year and a bit, and she’s the living example of how this can be done. Fiscally speaking, you need to the invoicing done and pay taxes in your country of trade but of course I recommend you refer to your accountant to stay on the safe side.
The winter far, far away getaway – some of us like to skip traditional holiday breaks and just go down the unconventional path: early summer or late January, or mid-winter escapes. Typically, Brits do this to get a sunny break somewhere warm e.g. Thailand, Bali or closer to home, Canary Islands or Madeira. Sites like Mr & Mrs Smith, Secret Escapes and Last Minute have really boosted this – and with AirBnB I won’t even tell you. This practice has the perks of looking forward to something when the weather is grim back home and also it’s a good change for the mind and the body. Some like to go in the mountains or on walking holidays in the summertime – not me! – but these active getaways leave little space for work. This option tbh is borderline full detox, if you ask me! The real downside? My inspiration level after Thailand were below zero… But as they say, horses for courses! 🙂
Full detox – inspiration can be found in anything and honestly, for some it means to completely switch off from the routine to come back home completely rejuvenated. I tend to get very anxious and moody when I’m not in the loop or not in control so the only times I’ve done that, it was for 2-3 days – still checking mobile and laptop for important messages. Once I even interrupted my break to go on a 3-day interpreting job in France. The things you do for the job you love… If you are indeed the detox type, I can recommend Cornwall again: stunning landscape and quietatmosphere, but weather-wise just a bit chilly. Iceland is a popular destination for nature lovers and boy, it is quiet there – or so I’m told. The inland areas of any country – say, Italy – tend to be more remote and isolated so they can work well for a complete “forget-about-the-world” experience. My favourite place to go off season is the island of Elba, in the archipelago of Tuscany – my personal paradise.
Inspiration can be found in anything and honestly, for some it means to completely switch off from the routine to come back home completely rejuvenated.
What does Val do, then?
I fall into the category of those who’d rather be aware than be sorry: this translates into being always on top of your game ie. the very much frowned upon practice of working when on a plane, checking emails on my smartphone while sunbathing and bringing my Mac Air everywhere we go (OK, maybe not a speedboat).
Also, considering I travel most of the time, what I try to do is to just choose places where I can actually do next to nothing – leaving for Portugal as I post this, so next weeks you’ll see what I mean. Yet, I like taking short breaks rather than a traditional, very Italian 3-week-off period: I find that switching off from work too much and for too long makes me more anxious of not getting work ever again, missing out (FOMO), detaching from reality and makes it harsher and harder for me to abruptly trade flip-flops for suits and Vogue for legal documents. Also, I find less imposing on my mental health if I check my work emails on a regular basis: I feel that it’s more beneficial for my peace of mind if I’m on top of what’s going on and the power of decision makes me calmer and ensures I am not living in a temporal vacuum that sucks everything up and throws me in a far-away dimension.
- What do YOU do?
- What’s your technique?
- Have you tried and tested some of these options?
Stay there because next week I’m going to report about my short regenerating break in Portugal – I’m there as you read this!