Why taking unpaid leave may be the best thing you ever did – and how to best spend it
It can be truly hard to slow down. But anyone who has spent years at work knows that doing just that is one of the best things you can do. After all, apart from your allotted vacation time, the decision to take unpaid leave is a conscious, adult choice. Here’s our take on why unpaid leave is so important no matter what point in your career you are in – and what you can look forward to if you decide to take the plunge.
An indulgence? Nope
Release yourself from the idea that taking time off is an “indulgence”. In fact, noticing when you need time off to clear your head, reset, or just learn a new skill, is a key sign of healthy emotional awareness—which any self-aware boss will be looking for in their employees! Think about it: you wouldn’t wonder why you need a rest after running for an extended amount of time, so why do you believe you should continue working without a break in sight?
Contrary to what your busy brain might be trying to say, taking time off work actually results in higher productivity and morale upon your return. Motivation, creativity, and flexibility wanes as we feel “trapped” at work, and time off is the perfect antidote to this uncomfortable sensation.
Reevaluate your goals
You may find that taking time off changes your focus towards other professional areas or goals – and that’s ok! It’s natural for us to reevaluate our career direction. This period of time off may fill you with energy to pursue another position at your company, go freelance, add to your skill set, or change directions entirely.
Grow your creativity
We all have other interests that are difficult to find the time to cultivate between the daily 9 – 5. Unpaid time off is the ideal time to dedicate to developing your personal side projects, hustles, ideas, and creative hunches. You see, time away from your regular work allows you space to process the ideas you have floating around your mind or filling up your notebooks. And you never know where they’ll take you.
Learn something new
What better than taking unpaid time off and coming back with a whole new skill set to boot? If you’ve ever wanted to learn a new language or dance, cook, horseback ride, garden, use Photoshop, rock climb— unpaid leave is the perfect time to learn. As an added bonus, opening your mind (whether to new skills or to a healthy dose of idleness) also boosts creativity and flexibility.
Get back in touch
With yourself, with your friends and family, with nature, with your hobbies, and dreams for the future. Take time to journal, think, daydream, reach out to mentors, have long coffee dates and conversations with friends, and cook slowly with your family.
What would time off be without the chance to experience something new? Whether combining education with travel (learning French in France, anyone?), to traveling for the pleasure of experiencing a new culture, your passport and mindset will thank you for the break.
Many of us look around our homes and see piles of unfinished tasks: furniture to set up, recipes to attempt, walls to (re)paint, gardens to plant, pictures to hang. And after a day at work you never really want to spend your evening working through those tasks, right? But there’s nothing like the sensation of inner calm once these jobs are done.
Be a book (or podcast!) worm
Do you have a pile of books by your bed waiting to be read? We sure do. But try as we might, there’s not enough time in a normal week to read at length; slowly, deliciously, through book after book. The exact same principle can be applied to getting up to date on the podcasts you have bookmarked but never found time to listen to. Treat yourself to hour upon hour of uninterrupted reading or listening time, accompanied by endless cups of tea or coffee.
Recharge your body and mind
It turns out our brain’s ability to self-regulate depletes as we continue to demand more from it. In short: forever asking more from yourself without giving back will result in a crash at some point. Taking leave, even if unpaid, gives you time to devote to keeping yourself healthy: both emotionally and physically. Use it to sleep early, sleep in, eat well, see people, or not “do” anything at all.
Far from being an indulgence, unpaid leave is time that you can intelligently invested in your personal and professional growth and well-being. Your work/life balance, productivity, creativity, friendships, self-esteem—even your career—will thank you for it!