Be Intentional About How You Spend Your Time Off

Be Intentional About How You Spend Your Time Off

Harvard Business Review

The evidence is clear: Burnout is on the rise. A common suggestion for preventing burnout is to take regular breaks away from work. But what should those breaks look like if we want to maximize rejuvenation and protect our well-being? It may be surprising to learn, but passive “rest and relaxation” isn’t as effective for recovering from the daily grind as using breaks to accomplish your goals — not your work goals, but your personal goals. Examples include spending time with friends and family, pursuing your hobbies, or even organizing your closet. Whatever your own personal goals are, the important thing is that you lay out a plan for how you envision spending your time during the break. We call this proactive recovery, and we find that it makes people feel happier than passive forms of recovery.

Back in December 2020, one of us surveyed a group of 537 public-sector employees and asked them a simple question: “Do you have any goals for the upcoming winter holiday?” with the answer options “yes” or “no.” We also asked them to indicate how happy they are, which is a commonly used measure of subjective well-being.

We found that employees who set goals for their holidays indicated being 8% happier than those who didn’t. This difference in happiness emerged regardless of gender, age, employment, income, marital status, frequency of working from home, or number of dependents...

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