Historically, Western culture had a built in day off – Sunday. Everyone took Sunday off and perhaps they were mentally healthier for it. In today’s ‘always on’ society however, taking a day off is not as simple as it sounds. We’re always connected to the office or are constantly trying to catch up with all the things we haven’t managed to do in the week so our weekends are rarely restful.

It’s not unusual for people to work 14-hour days, take few holidays and sacrifice what little social life they have for work. And the problem for the modern world is it’s just not sustainable. Moreover, it can be bad for business if you don’t remember to take a day off.

Easy to forget

We’ve been conditioned since childhood to associate Mondays with work which is why it has become so easy to forget to take some personal time. The weekend comes around and we’re either finishing stuff off ready for Monday morning to have a head start, or we’re trying to cram too much into two days. Then Monday comes around and although you know you need a rest you just can’t because it’s a work day!

We go through this cycle week after week after week waiting for some vacation time so we can rest up but then the vacation time comes around and we’re so scared about having so much to catch up on we take too short a holiday or waste it checking in with the office. It’s a vicious cycle that quickly leads to burn out.

Low batteries

Being ‘always on’ affects the brain’s ability to self-discipline, which makes it harder to stay focused, leads to working longer hours, and increases the chances of stress, negativity and fatigue. Pretty counter-intuitive, right?

You need to listen to your brain when it is telling you your batteries are low. You have to properly break away from work and actually rest! You can’t beat the competition or achieve your goals when you’re only working at 70–80% capacity. Well-rested people are happy, energetic, focused, creative and productive people.

Rest every week!

Work an actual rest day into your schedule where you properly switch off and stop checking in with the office. Stop even thinking about the office! If you’re still obsessing about work then you can’t recuperate.

It’s not about how much time you spend in the office but what you do with your time. And with a rest day you can be up to 20% more productive, which is like working 6 days in a 5-day week! You will find that you get more done after a proper rest because you’ll have the energy and mental capacity to power through your work.

What you think is top speed right now is actually you with your foot to the floor racing uphill wasting gas. A rest day flips that around so you’re actually pedal to the metal going downhill.

Take the day off challenge

You really should be using your free days properly already. If you get a two-day weekend then you should be using it to spend time with your family and friends, resting or indulging in some food for your brain (that doesn’t just mean binge Netflix, although you can certainly work that into your schedule!)

But if you really want to crank up the positive benefits of taking time off, set aside an additional day every month to completely switch off from work. The prospect can be scary but if you are properly rested you will be more productive and the free time will come naturally.

Over time you will get used to investing in yourself the same way you got used to neglecting your time off – and the possibilities for what you can achieve with that productivity are endless. Start valuing your free time and your free time will start paying you back with interest.