Why is It So Hard to Take Time Off?

Sophie Playle
Why is It So Hard to Take Time Off? image

Today, I’m tired. I’ve been tired for a good few days, actually. When was the last time I had some time off?

*Checks calendar*

Okay, so I had three days off last month – but they were active, travel-filled days.

Time off just to relax? I haven’t had much this year.

Back when I was setting my yearly goals, I aimed to have five weeks off throughout the year. It felt like a bit of daunting figure to aim for, but not impossible. After all, according to the government, full-time employees are entitled to 28 days paid leave (which can include bank holidays, of which there are around nine in England) plus weekends.

That means some people spend 1/3 of the year not working.

I always end up working bank holidays (because I forget when they are when I’m setting my work schedule …!). I never work weekends, if I can help it. I’m adamant about that. I’d have no energy for the rest of the week and no social life if I worked weekends.

This year, I’ve had ten days off (plus weekends). The year is nearly over. And my schedule is full.

I’ve blocked off the last week of the year to take as Christmas holiday, so that will take me to the grand total of fifteen days off this year. I’m not complaining (it’s my own fault). But I am surprised to discover this has happened.

I started a discussion about time off in an editorial group on Facebook, and I hadn’t anticipated some of the comments. Some people are overworked and struggling; others work long hours and rarely (if ever) take time off, but love it. A lot of people work every single day, though not all day.

One editor referenced the Confucius quote ‘Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’. I don’t doubt that this frame of mind rings true for some people, but it doesn’t for me.

My work depletes my mental energy and takes up a lot of my time, and I want to save some of this time and energy for my own pursuits. I want the headspace for my own creative thoughts, and the time to build an identity that isn’t connected to my work. I can’t do that if I work every day.

When you work for yourself, you feel like you’re missing out on income when you take time off. I know I certainly feel this way.

Really, though, we should be making sure our rates take time off into account.

I’ve earned more this year by not taking much holiday, but it comes at a personal cost. There’s also a danger that my tiredness will start to negatively affect my business, causing the quality of my work to drop. I owe it to my clients – as well as myself – to rest. Properly rest.

I’m really looking forward to my Christmas break.

And from now on, I’m determine to do better at scheduling time off.

Sophie Playle profile picture
Sophie Playleis a professional fiction editor. She specialises in copy-editing and critiquing, working directly with authors. Speculative fiction, fantasy, science fiction and literary fiction are her genres of choice. She's an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and has a Creative Writing MA from Royal Holloway, University of London. Find out more: liminalpages.com

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