Today is my first day back at work after a wonderful two weeks unplugged from the normal day-to-day workings of a software developer. I don’t unplug entirely, but my iMac with Xcode and all the trimmings is mostly replaced with the iPad Pro 10.5 I am presently typing on.
In my twenties I would rarely, if ever, take a day off. Holidays and weekends seemed to bleed into the previous and next days and there was always something that I wanted to be working on. There was a new release of Elements with a feature I was worried a competitor would beat me to. Other times, it was that gnawing calculator in my head telling me that every hour I don’t work and bill clients is money I am leaving on the table.
As I’ve settled into my thirties, however, I’ve learned to appreciate taking time to reset and just get away the work. I still haven’t taken a proper destination vacation or unplugged entirely to silently meditate, or whatever you do when you don’t use technology. What I do try to stick to, however, is taking two weeks off twice a year: once in the middle of summer and again at the end of the year between Christmas and New Years.
My summer conveniently lines up with the summer shutdown at my current day job where nearly every single person in the company (sorry, devops) disappears for two weeks and takes their vacation at the same time. The first time I took a two week break like this I was quickly bored and ready to get back to work. Having never taken even a week off before, two weeks seemed insane and unnecessary. As I’ve continued the habit though, I’ve realized that it’s actually the perfect amount of time to decompress, recharge, and maybe even learn new things without having to worry about making time before or after work.
It’s also great at forcing you to truly separate from your work. With a long weekend, or even just a single week away, I’d spend the majority of the time just trying to unwind and transition out of ‘work mode’, which is sometimes challenging for someone as high-strung and invested as I can be sometimes. By adding the second week away, I am allowing myself a full week of true vacation where I’m in the rhythm of whatever I’m most interested in during that time.
These last two weeks have been spent just reading books I’ve had saved up as well as catching a few different TV shows I’ve wanted to see. I may or may not have completely reorganized my kitchen too. My two week break over the summer was spent doing repairs around the house or building things in my shed such as a new monitor stand. I rarely open Xcode, though that’s not a hard rule I have. I just find I don’t want to or feel the need to. Most importantly, I unplug entirely from work and make myself as unavailable as Tom Hanks on a deserted island.
Admittedly I have a bit of privilege in being able to take this much extended time off regularly and it may not be possible for others with different life scenarios. One trade off for me is that since I am a for-hire contractor I don’t get paid for this time or any vacation days, so it does require a bit of budgeting and discipline. Despite that, if you can figure out a way to pull the two week vacation at your job, I highly recommend giving it a shot.
Now, I wonder if my app still compiles . . .
If I ever ran a company again, I would steal this idea and implement it. ↩︎
Something I have never really been good at until early last year. That’s a story for another day. ↩︎