by CareerActually contributor, Peter Luscombe

The need to get away, to get out from under, is a common experience we all face. There are many ways to do this at work IF you build such into your work day. That’s a big IF some days. Really it begins with the mind-set of looking out for yourself; your own best interests. Time when you take the helm and steer your course away from reefs and choppy waters. Time when you seek a breath of fresh air.

Rarely in teaching was I stuck at a desk for a prolonged period. Most often I was on my feet. Unless I took time out I would race through the day – a quick cup of coffee during a break, lunch hastily taken because there was so much to do before … before whatever came next then next then next … Whew! Even now I can remember that head long rush.

CareerActually contributor Julie Preston in her post Give yourself time to dream, think, learn addressed this, finishing on a thought provoking question: How will you pause from the race to truly savour the journey?

For me that meant getting right away so I went for a walk. During that time I stepped out of the rush. Admittedly, at times I thought through some issue that was on my mind, however, I had the space to do so right there and then. On some days when I was fed-up and going nowhere positive it was a relief to say – “I’m going for a walk. I’ve had enough for the moment.” Most times I came back, even though it was only about 15 mins, refreshed and feeling productive again. Regular and routine time out is a necessity, if you want to make the best for yourself in your work day.

time out

Going for a walk was my regular time out, however, colleagues had other ways and means which involved sharing time at work and beyond. Some had Tuesday lunch together, others drinks after work, or time at the gym. Often these occasions were a time to decompress. I learned from hanging with teachers during work time and after work that while decompression was good, it also meant you remained focused on work. No one likes to be under the pump all the time, right?

I applied that consideration in class. With the idea of meeting a challenge and having a bit of fun, I introduced activities like crossword time. The class and I would do a crossword together. On the ledge of the whiteboard sat a number of markers and when they solved an across or down, then they went to the whiteboard to score their finding. It was free moving, a challenge, sharing and fun. Most of my students got into it and anticipated crossword time. This also made me realize how true this was for time with my colleagues.

Time out together needed a shake-up. Those scheduled lunches and other times weren’t truly proving as time out from work. Decompression had a place, and that was a given, however, we needed to be more spontaneous – add spice and invention. As Les Emery pointed out in his recent post fun re-invents how you approach life and work; career change as well. The ‘Fun Theory’ fascinates and has so many possibilities. With the idea of time out as fun my cronies and I had dim sims for a coffee break so unexpectantly; looked at one another over lunch and someone would say – “Let’s go out to dinner tonight or tomorrow night.” Such wasn’t regular or planned or staged, it was in the moment and that made it exactly what it was to time out from work and all the rest. Our ideas and events weren’t so adventurous, they weren’t even so often, however, they were so much fun.

In teaching, as with any form of work, you learn ‘lessons’ like:

  • take time out regularly and routinely
  • allow time out for others
  • open the windows and doors to spice and invention
  • recognize that ‘fun’ is spontaneous and in the moment – works for others there and then