For accountants, stepping away from work to relax and recharge can seem like an impossible task.
In any profession, high achievers may be tempted to keep working in the evenings, over the weekend, and even while on vacation, as smartphones, tablets, and work-issued laptops make it easier to work remotely than ever before. That’s why unplugging can seem like an unwise choice if you want to get ahead.
But the truth is accounting executives and high-earning professionals in a variety of fields know that taking meaningful breaks from work is one of the keys to success. Discover why taking breaks and knowing how to unplug is so important to building a rewarding career.
Make work breaks a regular activity — schedule time off well in advance.
Planning time away from the office can be a struggle, especially when the steady stream of work never slows down.
At Lifehack.org, Joel Falconer emphasizes the need for time away from work to ensure peak performance during work hours. Many people tend to keep working — sometimes late into the night — because they are interrupted. And while you may feel more productive by doing so, you could actually be impacting your performance during the day.
According to Falconer, the solution to this type of work pattern is to schedule alert “interruptions” at regular preset intervals and, more importantly, to self-enforce the planned breaks. This rule applies to breaks of all types, from 10-minute rests every two hours to extensive vacations or sabbaticals.
Investopedia recommends that you keep time off in mind from the start of your career. After graduating with your master’s in accounting degree, your focus is on finding the perfect accounting or analyst position that you worked so hard to pursue. But that means you may not be focused on other important details, like downtime and knowing how to unplug.
You should begin thinking about your long-term career objectives — including opportunities for meaningful time away from work — while you’re still in school.
Entry-level employees and executive accountants can often anticipate their workloads throughout the year based on the seasonality of the business. That means, as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you can expect your heaviest workloads to be during tax season, while corporate accountants can anticipate stacks of paperwork and countless conference calls around your clients’ financial year-end periods.
Unplugging during these busy times may not be an option for you, but you can plan around these periods and find time to unwind during less busy parts of the year instead.
By setting aside time for long weekends or extended vacations months in advance, you can increase the chance that you will actually take time off. Advanced planning also allows you to inform clients about time away, work ahead of schedule if necessary, or even delegate tasks to colleagues to address potential issues proactively.
Set appropriate expectations — timely responses don’t need to be instant responses.
As an accounting professional, you may find yourself regularly taking work home, which means you’re less likely to unplug during a typical work week.
If colleagues and clients generally receive instant responses to emails, texts, or calls, no matter the hour, they will continue to expect communication during a long weekend or a week away — making it a challenge for you to unplug and unwind.
The best way for you to temper those expectations is to establish boundaries before leaving for vacation. The specifics of those boundaries will vary depending on your preference to unplug completely or check messages just once or twice a day. No matter what you decide, make sure to communicate those boundaries clearly, even following up with automatic reminders to those who text or email.
You should also outline what constitutes an emergency and discuss what colleagues should do when urgent matters arise.
As Michael Kerr explains at Business Insider, it’s risky to expect colleagues and clients to respect boundaries. Instead, take it one step further by establishing boundaries for yourself, which may mean setting technology guidelines.
For example, if you find yourself frequently reaching for your smartphone or laptop, only to find yourself checking work email or responding to client requests, you may want to consider limiting your technology use outside of designated times.
The upside of total downtime: Decide to do nothing.
As a professional, you understand the importance of setting goals and achieving them. That’s why when you’re trying to enjoy a long weekend or a vacation with family and friends you may find that setting goals is not always a reasonable approach — unless one of your goals is to do nothing.
At Business Insider, Lynn Taylor recommends setting deadlines and expectations aside in favor of doing nothing. As she explains, having long blocks of unscheduled time can be an excellent way for high-achieving professionals like you to unplug and recharge.
You may find that simply agreeing to spend time with family and friends instead of working alone in the office can be a positive step in the right direction. Taylor recommends designating a three-day weekend for true family time, as just one day off may not be enough to set aside work-related stress and enjoy time away with loved ones.
Leaving time for meditation can also prove beneficial, as Gina Belli writes for PayScale, as allowing for mindfulness can help you achieve better focus and greater purpose later on.
Keep fun time simple and stress-free.
Whether it is a weeklong spring break, a long holiday weekend, or a two-week summer vacation, many experts recommend keeping vacation plans relatively simple.
At Business Insider, Kerr recommends that busy professionals plan “staycations” rather than elaborate, expensive getaways. Enjoying free time at home is a way to unplug that allows for a much-needed mental break without the stress that often accompanies trip planning and travel.
Taylor outlines the benefits of simply getting outside. Spending time in nature can be restorative and low-stress, which can provide you with the break you need from work or school. Taking a short hike, going for a swim, or enjoying a bike ride also helps you stay fit, which enhances both physical and mental health.
When returning from vacation, ease back into a normal schedule.
Successfully making the transition from a vacation back to the office is just as important as enjoying time off.
Writing for AccountingWEB, Jeff Davidson recommends avoiding the temptation to overindulge on the last day of vacation. Though planning a long day or a late night with family and friends may sound enjoyable, doing so can result in exhaustion and poor performance the next day. Instead, consider planning to end your time off with plenty of sleep, even going so far as to get an early start on the first day back.
At Forbes, Avery Blank recommends spending the first day after a vacation in relative isolation. Responding to emails, returning phone calls, and determining a to-do list for the rest of the week can make returning to a normal schedule more pleasant and help you look forward to the next opportunity to take time off and unplug.
As you plan your future, the next step toward becoming a leading accounting professional starts with top-level education. If you want to learn more about what a graduate-level education can do for your career, check out Maryville University’s online Master of Science in Accounting.