You’re feeling a little burnt out, a little run down. It’s November and you’re so over it. You need to take a little bit of a break. But you can’t possibly put in leave. It’ll mean more work for your colleagues and your boss really relies on you and what about all the emails you’ll have to attend to when you get back, and… STOP. 

The world is not going to stop spinning if you decide to take a few days off. 

Yes you’re being loyal, but you’re doing so to a fault. You need to think about yourself too. Is your work really more important than self care and spending time with people you love? The answer is a simple no. 

But don’t just take my word for it.

Wiekie Bartlett, a Cape Town based Industrial Psychologist in private practice believes in the importance of taking leave from work.  

A study by an organisational behaviour theorist, Prof. Leslie Perlow, from Harvard Business School supports Bartlett’s view.

"A scientific experiment confirmed that employees who take their scheduled time off consistently replenished their willingness and ability to work which made them more productive over time.  These employees experienced higher levels of job satisfaction and they could envision a long-term future at the organisation.  They are more positive about work-life balance and prouder of their accomplishments," says Bartlett. 

And the thing is, we can, unfortunately, all be replaced. Companies can let you go even after you’ve given your heart and soul to them and even after promising you that increase that you never got. 

I remember my dad worked very hard for the same company for 12 years. He worked overtime without extra pay, he went the extra mile for customers, and he hardly ever took time off. But when the company needed to let a few people go due to financial constraints, my dad was one of the first.

Here’s how to practice self-care and look after yourself when it comes to how hard you work:

Take short breaks 

You could try the Pomodoro technique. The technique calls for 25 minute working stints with 5 minute breaks between each session and a longer 15 minute break after about 2 hours. My colleague Tammy tried it and while it didn’t 100% work for her due to various reasons, it did help her improve her focus and get more done. Read about it here. 

Take an evening off work

Don’t check your emails. Don’t ‘just quickly’ check in with your colleague or clients. Don’t check that document to make sure you input the correct numbers. You can do it tomorrow. According to this article on Harvard Business Review, an experiment forcing employees to take days, nights or extended breaks off actually made them more productive and allowed them to focus more. 

Try and take a nap 

Now this one is a little controversial, but if you work from home or have an office where this is okay, then take the chance. There’s a reason companies like Google have dedicated napping areas. Studies show that they can improve your concentration, reaction time and mood significantly. 

Use your leave days

Stop letting your leave pile up or taking a leave day just to run an errand. Take a day or two off, or plan a proper holiday and take a longer break. Jason Fried, co-founder and CEO of software company 37signals, found that giving employees time off to work on their own projects or just take a break resulted in a major boost of creativity which was ultimately very significant to the business. 

So stop working yourself to a standstill. As a colleague repeatedly tells me “Work is not going to come to your funeral”.