Taking time off work

IMAGE BY  Szűcs László

I've been thinking a lot about work-life balance after seeing some close friends/colleagues burn out. As my former boss told me: "There's no such thing as work-life balance. Work is part of your life, work-private balance would be a better name."

With everything that's available to us, it's increasingly more difficult to define a clear boundary between work and private time. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but we should be aware of how we spend our time in order to live a (mentally) healthy life.

I read through some things I saved a while ago and these two resources really clicked for me, with regards to work-private balance.

Shawn Blanc - Concerning the Ebb and Flow of “Work”

There is no shame in taking time “off” of your work, in order to learn something, experience something, and be inspired. In fact, it’s our duty.
— Shawn Blanc

I can remember a time where I'd constantly check e-mail during the evenings/weekends/holidays. Just to be sure that I wouldn't miss anything and could reply as soon as possible. At times, I would already be stressing out on Saturday, about something I read in my mailbox.

Why? Think about it for a second. What's the worst that could happen if you didn't check your mail on Saturday?

From my own experience, only good things happen:

  • my mind is not constantly in racing mode
  • some of my best ideas for work related topics, came by taking time to rest and think
  • there's extra time to pursue other things in life

I follow some basic rules, to make sure I take time "off" work every single day:

  • no work e-mail checking between 7pm and 7am
  • no work e-mail checking during the weekends/holidays
  • no e-mail notifications. Ever.

Read Shawn's post here.

Merlin Mann - Back to Work 158: Merlin-Sized Hole

Merlin makes the analogy of receiving/reading e-mail at night vs having someone knock at your door at 9pm. You're not expecting it, you don't want to have someone at your door.

The following two quotes are the ones that resonated most with me:

There are very few circumstances where I would want somebody coming into my house after 9pm. Unless there’s a fire, or somebody was screaming,...


Getting to a place where I’m not even wondering if there might be someone coming at 9pm.

Unless it's been a stressful day, I usually don't need much time to "switch off". My ride home (20m - 1h) with a podcast on, is usually enough. Not reading any work e-mail after work, helps keep me switched off. Stop wondering if X or Y has sent you an e-mail, there's another day tomorrow to respond.

If you want to hear it yourself, listen from 1h12m - 1h17m.

Introduction to margin

Update 20 January 2016: link to Shawn Blanc's margin page, instead of just the first article.

This post previously linked to Introduction to margin. But now Shawn Blanc is putting together a central repository of articles, podcasts and a free video about the topic of margin. Definitely worth checking out!

Why is margin important?

We need margin. You need it. And so do I.

Without margin in our finances, we fall deeper in debt every time the car breaks down. Without margin in our schedule, we have no time to rest, recharge, or serve others. And without margin for our thoughts, we lack creative energy to make progress on our most important work.
— Shawn Blanc