What I learnt from taking 3 months off work

This summer I decided to not work. It was the first attempt to implement my ideal work-life balance of ’3 months work, 1 month break’ cycles. But because the summer was coming up and I had loads of plans, I scheduled in 2 months worth of trips instead of one, which in the end turned out to be 3 months off (coming back home it actually took me close to 4 weeks to update my portfolio, arrange interviews and land a contract).

3 months is not a long time off, but for someone with 2 weeks as his longest one stretch break it’s long enough to experience some new sensations that weren’t quite what I had in mind when I left work in June.

During this period I didn’t have access to a gym, which usually is the cornerstone in my weekly routine. I didn’t have to wake up early and go to work, and I didn’t have to plan my weeks in any way other than keeping my flight schedule in mind.

Any ambitions of doing morning yoga and go for a run whenever I was home were quickly lost. Waking up early to get shit done followed the same destiny. I can only conclude that my willpower isn’t enough to keep my healthy habits. And without my healthy habits I’m not the best I can be.

Routine is this boring thing that we can’t be without. Some of the most influential creatives credit their success to routine, and personally I got to experience the importance of routine when I suddenly neglected it.

I love random, but I realise that I need routine in order to create space for ’structured chaos’.

Here’s something I hadn’t considered although it sounds awfully obvious. Just because I had a lot of time and could do what ever I wanted it didn’t mean my friends could. They were obviously working as usual Monday to Friday, so if I for instance wanted to go kitesurfing on a Wednesday I had to do it by myself.

Same thing with just meeting up to hang out. Sure, but it would have to wait until 6pm. The week days I spent in London could be quite lonely due to the fact that I didn’t work so I didn’t see any colleagues, but I couldn’t see my friends either because they were all at work.

Weekends are cool, because that’s when you can let loose, stay up late, have a lie-in, enjoy a lazy breakfast. It’s your reward after a week of hard work. But if you don’t work, the weekend looses its value.

I did all of the above every day (maybe I shouldn’t have but as mentioned, my willpower didn’t last that long) so there were no sense of reward. Days just floated into each other and in a way my time became less precious. A pretty sad sensation.

The points above mainly refers to my time back in London, but I also discovered one thing about jumping from trip to trip. It was hard to enjoy the moment. I would catch myself being on a beautiful island in the Finish archipelago, or relaxing after a perfect day of kitesurfing counting down the days until my next adventure (that would be even more awesome than the one I was currently in). All my trips that summer were great in their own ways. But lining them up one after the other made it hard to focus on the moment.

What will I do differently next time?

Sounds like I had a terrible time this summer? Actually not at all. I had a great time and I’ll do it again, but keeping these points in mind should make it even more enjoyable.

So maybe I got a bit excited with my newly gained freedom, booking in 3 trips back to back, and a bunch of weekend trips to follow. The idea is to take one long holiday, 4–6 weeks in more or less the same place (I think traveling by car within a country is still ok). That way I should be able to really get into the groove instead of rushing through life without seeing the beauty I’m surrounded with.

Staying home without work is closely coupled with weekends. Weekends mean relaxation. But this can’t be the case if you’re at home for more than a week. Get up early, get excited and build that thing that you’ve ben thinking about for a long time. No such thing in mind? Then there’s always the chance to be a tourist in your own city.

Rewards only feel good if you’ve deserved them. And in order to deserve something you’ve got to work for it. You know it’s better for you in the long run, so get into the habit of healthy routine and don’t forget to reward yourself when you’ve stuck to it.

Martin Sandstrom is a Brighton-based UX designer and owner of Gloriousdays Bamboo Watches. Life is full of moments. Find yours.

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Designing digital interfaces. Kitesurfer. Travels a lot. https://martinsandstrom.com

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