How to make the most of time off

We’re becoming increasingly bad at taking breaks in Britain. A recent study suggested that workers wasted a total of 163 million days of annual leave, gifting their employers labour worth £7bn.

Most people blamed work being too busy. But that free labour isn’t a good thing in the long run for anyone. Tired workers are less productive and prone to mistakes, and long hours can put companies at risk of stress-at-work cases.

So we all need to think a bit more carefully about planning time off and how to make the most of it. Here are some ideas on how to ensure you feel fully rested and restored by your break, even when you’re under pressure.

Make a plan

You don’t want to end-up being handed a random week at the end of the year with nothing to do. Planning ahead means you can book a better trip or ensure that friends and family are free to hang out.

“Successful people plan ahead when a holiday break is approaching, because they recognize that it’s a rare opportunity to enjoy well-earned leisure time,” says workplace expert Lynn Taylor. “Even if the plan is to kick back, they usually have in mind certain activities, such as visiting with family or friends.”


It can be hard to leave work behind entirely. But if you do have to respond to emails while you’re on holiday, it’s best to restrict it to limited times. That way you won’t get resentful and you’ll be able to relax when your time is your own.

“The key is how much control you have of the situation,” says Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. “Just get it done, and then stay out of your inbox again until the next morning.”

Tackle your personal to-do list

Getting productive on your days off can leave you with a sense of satisfaction and get jobs that have been hanging over you for months, off your conscience. So, while you should make room for pure relaxation, crossing off your to-do list is a great use of holiday time.

“Consider taking an afternoon—or even a full day—to take an unrushed approach to all of the nonwork tasks that you really want to do but struggle to find time to do,” says time management coach Elizabeth Grace Sanders.

Take time for friends and loved ones

Time off is time you can really invest in your relationships. Switching off the devices, enjoying new experiences and having long conversations together is a great way to reconnect with friends and family that will continue paying dividends when the rat race resumes.

“Research suggests that traveling together can strengthen bonds, improve communication, and even reduce the likelihood of divorce,” says psychologist Juliana Breines.