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I recently completed a week of paid time off, which allowed me to completely level and landscape my front parkway with custom pavers.

My front parkway: powered by PTO.
My front parkway: powered by PTO.

It also gave me some time to reflect on how time off affects my work once I return and what makes for quality time off.

Quality time off should be work-related anxiety. This is key. That anxiety can from from a few areas.

  • Time off should be paid. If it isn’t, then there is anxiety about lost income.
  • Time off should be earned & accrued. Although I haven’t worked in an organization that offers unlimited time off, I have concerns about the ability for it to be effective. I believe I would be anxious about entitlement. “Did I work enough to earn this time off?”
  • Time off should be free of work obligations. This includes emails and virtual meetings. It takes time to get into and out of the work mindset so each incursion causes anxiety.

It’s not (necessarily) a vacation

Time off does not need to be a vacation. I lead this article with a photo showing a significant landscaping job. For someone else, this is their day-to-day. Perhaps a landscaper would take time off to build a website. While a vacation is nice, I think that’s just an added possibility when taking time off.


Every creative has their muse. Something that helps them find inspiration. My position isn’t 100% creative. Time off allows me to disassociate from the immediate problems at hand and let my mind draw connections and gain insight. I pick activities that slow things down. I prefer physical activity and definitely not on the computer. Hiking, backpacking, or in this case working on the house. After a time,


I mentioned above that time off should be free of work obligations. That doesn’t mean that you are forbidden to think about it! I happen to enjoy the creative aspects of my work. Time off can help support those. Here’s an exercise to try:

  1. Define the parameters of one complex, but solvable problem.
  2. Write that problem down in the form of a one sentence question.
  3. Read the problem out loud.
  4. Put the problem away and take your time off like normal.

If you’re anything like me, your brain is now primed to think about that question subconsciously. Upon return, it will be easier to find creative insight.

Doing something different

I find it invigorating to do something different than normal. Nearly all of my work hours are spent sitting in front of a computer and talking to be people about websites. Thus, I want my time off to be active, analog, and typically outside.

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