Do you ever feel guilty for relaxing when your to-do list is packed? A lot of people have a hard time relaxing without feeling the need to check their email, tidy up the house, or complete other tasks that prevent that terrible feeling that they are wasting their time. If you’re doing this, however, you’re not really relaxing at all, and you’re missing out on all the wonderfully rejuvenating, stress-reducing effects of taking some time for yourself.

The article’s author, time management and productivity expert Laura Vanderkam, says that we should set aside time for ourselves in the same way we set aside money for things like vacations. If you can budget your time that way, and see actual numbers that demonstrate that you are in fact allotting adequate time to your to-do list in addition to your relaxing time, the guilt goes away. Thoroughly enjoying your downtime can also give you the stress-relief and clarity you need to return to work more productive than ever.

So you’ve got two weeks of vacation time in the bank… how do you make the most of those two weeks and get the best bang for your buck? Here are a few suggestions for maximizing the value of your downtime:

Trust the people covering you

Before going on vacation, most people take adequate steps to ensure their jobs are covered while they’re away. Whether that’s getting extra work done or trusting your tasks to a competent coworker, these preparations ensure business will continue as usual without you in the office. And if a few things get missed, would it really be the end of the world? Probably not. Trust that your workplace isn’t going to self-destruct without you there (and maybe get over yourself a little). 

Take your email off your phone

Another practice that will put you in the fast lane to Rancho Relaxo is removing your email account from your phone. That way, you won’t have any annoying little ‘ding’ noises interrupting your sandy beach slumber and you won’t be tempted to check it. If you have set up your “I’m out of the office so leave me the heck alone” auto reply, you’ll be good to go.


Better yet, put your phone away

Whether you leave it locked in your hotel room safe or just turn it off while it’s in your bag, disconnecting from the information superhighway is an incredibly refreshing thing to do. It allows you to be present in the moment and pay attention to people, nature, food, fun and pretty much everything else that’s awesome in life. In fact, this is something you should try at any given moment… not just when you’re on vacation. The world will just have to wait on the edge of their seats for your next Instagram photo of all the amazing things you’re doing on your amazing vacation. Don’t worry… they’ll still be there when you get back.

Turn off the TV

While staying up to date with current events around the world is a crucial part of being an informed global citizen, it’s perfectly fine to take a break once in a while. And then there are those people who feel incomplete if they haven’t watched the latest episode of The Voice. Disconnecting from TV for a week or two will have the same effect as disconnecting from your phone–it will help you live in the present moment and fully enjoy those precious moments of relaxation.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Trying to plan the most perfect vacation can be stressful in itself. Sure, you want to make the most of your downtime and maybe even create some special memories for your family but forcing it can suck the fun out of everything. Setting unrealistic expectations and micromanaging every detail could end up making your vacation less awesome than it could have been had you just planned a few things and let the memories unfold naturally.


If you’re sitting on the beach and still can’t stop your mind from racing with a million work-related thoughts, close your eyes and focus on your breathing or try a meditation exercise. Studies have shown that just a few minutes of meditation every day can help reduce work-related stress and anxiety, which is also great for helping you enjoy your downtime faster. Not sure how to begin? Try these suggestions. Alternatively, you could seek out a yoga class somewhere near your vacation spot to get a similar effect.

What are your secrets to winding down and enjoying your vacation faster? Share them in the comments section below.