Productivity vs holidays and leisure

Productivity vs holidays and leisure

Productivity vs holidays and leisure 150 150 Piotr Nabielec

Holidays and leisure

We live in times when it is becoming increasingly difficult to have a relaxing, leisurely holiday. Paradoxically, the problem concerns not time, but the ability to use it sensibly. More and more often I see people who, having a few days off from work or even a free afternoon, struggle to cope with reloading their batteries. It is now common that a steadily increasing number of people have unused holidays, which are regularly moved on to next year.

But holidays and leisure play a very important part in all our lives. And what exactly is this “part”? – here is my subjective list:

1. They make us aware that we are not robots

In order to keep up with the everyday rush, we continuously enrich our lives with new tools and techniques. We read, take part in improvement training, and watch motivating films. We make more and more plans, while our task lists get longer and longer. But in this bustle, it is very easy to forget that we are only human and that we also need rest and play!

In the course of “Productivity”, an internet-based program which gathered more than 200 participants, the habit of regularly planning one’s leisure time was voted the sixth most important improvement amongst all the newly introduced “development techniques” (read all 8 practical steps to increase your productivity).

Participants had this to say:

But first and foremost I would like to thank you, Piotr, for making me aware of the fact
that I am not a robot and that I too am entitled to some rest.

I also learned that life is simply too short to do everything and that lazing about
is an indispensable element of planning.

It is good to have objectives, to have ambitious plans and to work on yourself, and it is very pleasant to make wise use of your time. But it is more important still to remember that we are mere mortals, not machines mass-produced to efficiently perform task after task.

2. They help you reload your batteries

Let us assume that the battery-drawn below represents your personal load level. How full is your battery? 90%? 60%? 30%? Or has it fallen below 10%?

Reload your batteries

The load level changes dynamically depending on how satisfied you are in relationships, with family life, your job, how high your sense of self-worth is, and also on your level of motivation, your frame of mind, and your health. When you close in on 100%, you feel that you can move mountains, that everything is possible, and you look to the future with hope. Sometimes, however, it drops really low – you fall ill, your relationships are a mess, your family situation gets complicated, while your sense of self-worth plummets; you face difficulties or boredom at work, and life suddenly seems pointless. It may appear strange, but oftentimes in order to determine the load level of our batteries, we need to stop for a moment.

A holiday – or even a brief period of rest – gives us time to analyze our personal load level and bring it back up to what it should be. Unfortunately, an increasing number of people rush faster and faster, until their batteries reach a level that is worryingly low – this has a negative impact on their health and usually leads to crises in relationships and work. We should react to developments as they occur, not wait for a total breakdown!

3. They change our perspective and allow us to take a fresh look

Everyone has their preferred rhythm of life. For many of us, a regular lifestyle imparts a sense of stability and security, brings order to our daily choices, and helps shape habits. If, however, we remain in one rhythm for too long, we settle into a groove and our lives become boring.

Holidays (or even brief periods of rest) give us an opportunity to escape this self-imposed pattern and, thanks to the change of surroundings, allow us to take a refreshingly novel and inspiring look at life and the world around us. We must allow ourselves to be surprised – by a trip to a far-off land with a completely different culture, by breathtaking architecture, by magical, unique stories, by inspiring people, or by the beauty of nature; sometimes, however, an hour spent in a newly opened, atmospheric coffee house will be all that we need!

Being away from work, from our daily chores, from certain relationships and very well known surroundings, and from the routine of home life, we are in an excellent position to take a fresh look at what we are doing, how we are doing it, why, and with whom.

4. They facilitate making changes to your life

By pushing us out of our rut and forcing us to take a fresh look at ourselves and our surroundings, and also reloading our batteries, travel, holidays and leisure make it easier to introduce change to our lives, among others by developing healthy habits and getting rid of the bad.

When you return from holiday, it is much easier to alter your eating habits, to take up physical exercise, get rid of addictions, or make really important changes in your life.

When I look back, I see that all the changes that I made and decisions which I took, including each change of work and the setting up of, were preceded by a trip of some sort, which allowed me to view my life from a distance.

Remember – when you can’t change a certain aspect of your life the way you want it to be, don’t fret, blame yourself or feel down. A short holiday will be enough: a higher load level, a change of perspective and just getting out of your rut will work wonders.

5. They teach us that the road is more important than the goal

Holidays can really cleanse your mind and body of the world obsessed with achieving goals. You stop running from one activity to the next and from one objective to the other, while at the same reminding yourself of how it is to be “here and now”, how it feels to immerse yourself in the moment – to admire a beautiful view, to breathe in swigs of air, to listen to the murmur of the forest, the crash of sea waves, or the bustle of a busy city, simply to have fun.

Can you let go of your incessant goal orientation and instead try to gain satisfaction from being on the road?

While walking in the mountains or exploring a city you can concentrate to excess on the destination of your route and run hastily from point A to point B, inadvertently missing the surprises, beautiful views and interesting people present along the way. Holidays and leisure teach us that while the attainment of objectives is important, it is more important still to gain satisfaction from the road that leads you to your goal – not just from achieving the goal itself!

6. They teach us humility – the world and the corporations continue to function without us!

Even a few days off from work can teach us a real lesson in humility – when we return, we see that our corporation has been functioning steadily throughout our absence, while the world continues to revolve. It turns out that we are not irreplaceable and indispensable. For some people, this is a difficult and at the same time important moment.

There are those of us who need to feel that they are irreplaceable – they control their subordinates to excess, delegate tasks, and issue orders, always keeping their finger on the pulse and reacting to everything irrespective of the time. It is they who most often put off or cancel their holidays, feeling that nothing can function properly without them.

Sometimes, however, it is worth abandoning your activities for a few days in order to see that nothing really bad will happen during your absence – to be sure, the corporation will miss us, but it, along with the world, will continue to function. For some, this experience will induce a moment of panic, while others will finally be able to relax.

7. They allow suppressed emotions to come to the surface

When you are faced with the bustle of activity, it is very easy to suppress your emotions and miss something important, something that is taking place in your subconscious. Charging through your daily race it is equally easy to strain relationships, thus arousing resentment, mistrust, or even boredom on the part of coworkers and friends. A day off, far from the hubbub of everyday tasks, will make it possible for the suppressed emotions to come to the surface.

Anxiety, nervousness, irritation or bouts of sadness at the very beginning of a holiday are often a healthy sign that these emotions are indeed coming to the top. And it is extremely important that they do, for this is a liberating and freeing experience of key significance. If suppressed for too long, emotions will always lead to a crisis – of health, in relationships, or in the form of burnout.

This is of particular significance in the present day, when always being busy is equated with diligence, and thus considered a virtue. In many instances, however, it turns out that working flat out all the time is no more than an escape from internal pain. Having some time off is an excellent occasion to face this pain and release it.

Another important aspect concerns developing your sense of self-worth on the basis of the results of your work. In such a situation a holiday, which will be focused not on generating value but on loading your batteries and living “here and now”, causes extreme anxiety and nervousness accompanied by a low sense of self-worth. In all these instances a holiday and real rest provide a buffer zone which allows our emotions to escape, preventing us from working ourselves to death in order to escape our internal emptiness.

8. They help strengthen bonds

Holidays and leisure are also an excellent occasion for strengthening bonds. Normally, we are focused on our duties, on completing all planned tasks on time – in other words, on what “must” or “should be” done. Meetings arranged in the course of the week usually have fixed hours, and we take care to ensure that time limitations are observed. But by breaking away from the weight of daily routines we can instill our relationships with a reinvigorating freshness.

Many people are more open to making acquaintances in their free time. Is it not true that we would treat a fellow Pole encountered in some far-off land very much differently than a countryman met on a city street back home?

9. They teach us how to live free of distractions

We spend much of our daily lives checking e-mail inboxes, social media sites, and news portals. We are becoming more and more dependent on computers, telephones and tablets – and the all-important internet connection. When you get caught up in such a dependence, it is very difficult to break the habit; little wonder therefore that steadily more people feel extreme anxiety when they forget to take their internet-enabled telephone with them. Indeed, more and more people are on the verge of becoming addicted to this electronic lifestyle!

Holidays and leisure time are an excellent occasion to immerse yourself in the moment, to break free of the grip of telephones, tablets, and computers – the ever-present distractions. If you want to rid yourself of the habit of checking e-mails and social media sites immediately after waking up, a few days off from work should definitely do you a world of good.

When on a trip or a sightseeing tour, or while walking in the mountains or even lying on a beach you can go for many hours without access to the internet, and these moments are altogether different from the long, indefinite stretches of time interrupted only by “digging about” in your phone every few minutes or so.


Holidays and periods of rest are simply indispensable – they make us aware of the fact that we are only human and that we need rest to reload our batteries; they also change our perspective and refresh our minds, thus making it easier to introduce change to our lives. Basically, they allow us to break free of our obsession with goals and of the clutches of the internet, teaching us how to live “here and now”. Furthermore, our free time functions as a much-needed “buffer”, when our pent-up emotions can rise to the surface and when we ourselves can learn that we are by no means indispensable.

First and foremost, however, holidays are a time of fun, during which we should make new acquaintances and reinvigorate relationships – particularly when our lives have become filled with boredom.

What is the load level of your batteries? How can you increase it – rapidly – by, say, 10%? And by 30%? Or by 50%?
Which of the above points is most important for you and why?
Do you have any reflections concerning holidays and leisure?

Piotr Nabielec

Piotr Nabielec

Piotr helps people organize chaos, stop procrastinating, and find the time for hobby and dreams. For the last 3,5 years, he leads with online and offline courses, webinars, and blog. Before that he spent 10 years as a software developer and manager in IT. He loves practical hints and solutions and is a fan of the Slow movement. TEDx speaker. As a hobby, he plays drums and guitar, travel, and does various kinds of sports.

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