A few years ago. I emailed an apology to a coaching client saying that I couldn’t start work with her just yet, because I was off on holiday. She is a leader in a Trade Union and the reply I got back from her assistant was a real eye opener:

 “As trade unionists who’ve fought for years for people to have a statutory right to holidays, we can hardly complain that you are taking a break!”

Of course! Why would I feel guilty about taking a summer holiday? A break isn’t an indulgent luxury, but much-deserved time off to recharge and renew after a busy year.

Since then, I take August off for what I call ‘Space Month’ and I’m about to do the same again. It’s not all lying on the beach. I’ll be doing some pretty boring life admin, too, and my break this year is actually a rather low-key mix of hanging out with my daughters and friends, cycling, pootling about, as I love to do, and making time for deep thinking about my work. But I will be taking the whole time out as a change from my usual routine. I won’t be looking at emails and I won’t be doing any coaching.

Katie on holiday with her bike in the countryside

And do I feel guilty? Yes, a bit. (I’ve always said I’m a work in progress!) I notice that when I tell leaders what I’m up to, I have a brief flash of discomfort – I well know the hugely difficult 18 months they’ve all had – but I’m also clear that there’s no need for guilt. My holiday is a win-win all round. It gives me a restorative break and means I get to support my clients even more powerfully when I’m back. And bless them all, they totally get it.

I’m curious. Are you feeling guilty about taking time off this summer? If so, I beg you – please, please don’t. Your holiday is a win-win all round too.

1. You get to recharge your batteries

Taking time out is essential for your mental health. Driving yourself on when you are overwhelmed and exhausted (a state I have seen all too often this year) is not serving anyone – not you, not the people supported by your organisation, or your team. We want our leaders to be resourced and positive, and that can only happens when you get time off for rest and recuperation.

2. Your creativity gets a chance to flourish

As your brain slows, new neural connections automatically lead to creative space for fresh thinking and a different perspective. It’s extraordinary what great new ideas just pop up when you get a breather from the fight or flight response to the million and one pieces of info that make up working life. And with all the challenges facing our sector, we need to be finding new and innovative solutions, so this downtime is far from being a waste of time.

3. You model good behaviour to your team

Research shows that staff can be highly anxious that taking a break doesn’t look good, that somehow having a holiday shows a lack of commitment. This really needs challenging. By taking your own break you, and they, show how very conscientious and committed you all are to the work of the organisation. I truly hope that the last year has knocked entirely on the head, the idea that busy is a badge of honour. Boundaries, not busyness, is where it’s at.

4. You allow your team to step up

By leaving your team in charge while you’re offline and away, you are demonstrating just how much you trust, value and believe in them to do a great job. What a brilliant opportunity for people to try new skills and show what they’re capable of. It doesn’t work if you’re emailing endless instructions from your campsite, of course. Make sure you give your team a clear brief – and then let them get on with it.

Over to you…

How do you feel about taking time off to recharge? Do you struggle to take your foot off the gas? I really encourage you not to feel guilty. This isn’t about being selfish. When you set boundaries around your work and life like this, you model fabulous behaviour and encourage your team to do the same – creating space for all of you to look after yourselves, to thrive and to do your very best work.

What next?

If you want support to move on from overwhelm and exhaustion, get in touch on the form below. Or book a no-obligation Discovery Call here. We could be talking soon – that is, in September, after my space month!

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