Simple Productivity Task Of The Day: Take The Day Off

by Randy Murray on January 11, 2011

If you find that you are continually rushed, always behind, even missing deadlines, then I have a suggestion for you: take a day off.

This may seem to be the opposite of what you need, but it can work if you follow these steps.

  1. Plan for your day off. Schedule it at least a day in advance.
  2. Announce that you are completely unavailable during your day off. Do not explain why.
  3. Before you leave for your day off, empty your physical and email inboxes. Process them all to zero. Clean your desk.
  4. Enable an “away” auto responder message for your email telling people that you’re unavailable for the day.
  5. During your day off:
    1. Do not check your email. That means personal email, too.
    2. Let calls from your office go to voice mail.
    3. Do something, anything that is completely unrelated to work.

When you return to work, you’ll find that a few things that have piled up, but if you follow these steps you might also find that you’ve gained a bit of needed perspective. If you return rested and refreshed you might have the energy and insights necessary to break through the log jams.

If this approach works for you, find a way to take more days off. I’d suggest at least one day per month and at least one full week of vacation as well.

Warning: this worked so well for me that I now take every day off. After 25 years of full time employment I am much more productive.

The Simple Productivity Task Of The Day: Take The Day Off by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Northern Wolf January 11, 2011 at 8:28 am

I suspect you also need to be able to leave work at your workplace (be it your office or desk) and not sit and stew over work issues when you have this personal time.

It comes naturally to some of us myself included, but for others this ability to detach is a hard-won discipline.


Randy Murray January 11, 2011 at 1:59 pm

I think you’re right: it’s not easy. That’s why I think it’s important to tie the idea of increasing productivity to time off. We are not machines. I fully believe that it’s necessary to separate oneself from work to be able to come back with solutions.

As a manager, I always looked at employees that worked long hours as a sign of a problem.




Ann Janzen January 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

This is a great topic. It really is quite amazing how “freeing” it is to leave the “e” world behind for a day or two. I did this a couple of weeks ago and included no TV in the mix. It is so refreshing to just spend a day or two with nature, friends and family without having to rush to see what’s happening on facebook or e-mail. Despite working less, it is rare that I actually take a day off from work… but when I do, I also take the day off from all things electronic. It’s nice to have the mind in neutral for a while. I bet if Stephen Covey had e-mail, facebook and twitter around when he wrote about “sharpening the saw”, he definitely would have suggested what you have suggested Randy.


Randy Murray January 11, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Thanks, Ann. The entire concept of a sabbatical is that of refreshing and sharpening. The best sabbbaticals are short and frequent.

I look to current managers to make sure that they observe their employees, make sure they take their vacation time, and give them breaks and bonus time off when it’s clear they could benefit from the time off - and the payback in increased productivity would be more than worth it.

The secret here is this: an employee will get LOTS done just before their day off, in preparation for the break.


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