Personal Growth

How to Get Off the Treadmill of Life and Actually Enjoy Time Off

how to get off the treadmill of life
Photo by Niels Kehl on Unsplash

Have you ever tried to reward yourself with a trip to the beach or the spa, only to be bombarded by a nagging feeling that you should be doing something productive? And whenever you are?working on something, you’re haunted by the thought that you should be working on something else? Learn how to get off the treadmill of life so you can start feeling calmer and having more fun!

When I visited my family in Texas recently, I had an epic to-do list. It included, among other things, applying my editor’s revision notes to my novel, launching a new blog (including all the associated tasks like coming up with a name and subtopics), reviewing two books, and writing a new post for this blog. Even under ordinary circumstances, it would have been difficult to get it all done in a week.

But my reasoning was since I had a week off of work, I’d have plenty of time to accomplish these items. I know, I know. Vacations are meant to be relaxing. But to me, relaxation time is not “relaxing” at all. It’s dead time that could be filled with other things.

Despite all that, the only things on that list I finished were the novel revision and one review. This was only because they were already mostly completed before my trip, and I had a long plane ride. Nevertheless, I felt no regret. In fact, I probably had a much more satisfying trip than I would have if I’d done all the things on that list.

Why? Well, let’s go back to the original purpose of my trip:?to visit my family.

All too often, we’re so busy rushing to check off the next item on our list that we lose sight of the big picture

Yeah, I know the image of the harried businessman (or businesswoman) missing dinner with his family because he was at another meeting has become trite. But really, when was the last time you talked to a friend on the phone? Or saw them in person?

For the sake of transparency, I’ll tell you that until recently, I’d only talk to friends or relatives on the phone about once every 6 months. And I’d see them in person roughly once a year. This applies not just to friends in Texas but also to those in the city where I live.

So this article is geared toward those of you who, like me, have trouble shutting off from the daily grind long enough to appreciate the presence of others. Who hesitate to pick up the phone or even send a text because it might divert time from more “productive” activities.

5 Steps for Getting Off the Treadmill of Life

Are you a Type A who has trouble relaxing, even on your days off? Discover 5 steps for getting off the treadmill so you can enjoy your downtime and have more fun!


1. Realize that there will always be time for work

One reason I was in such a big rush to accomplish all those goals over my vacation is because summer is nearly over. But even after returning home, I still have a couple of weeks left until the school year begins. And although my life will become significantly busier once school starts again (I’m a teacher), it’s not like my work outside of school will come to a grinding halt. Last year, I still managed to work on my blog and novel while also teaching, making lesson plans, and grading papers.

No matter how busy your schedule is, you can always make time for the things that matter most. This includes time spent working on your passions — for me, that would be my writing — as well as time for friends and family. Yes, it’s a juggling act. But if you have to sacrifice work so you can catch up with loved ones, believe me, your work will still be waiting for you the next day!

On the other hand, friends and relatives might start to feel hurt or lose their patience if you blow them off too many times. However, if this is the case, you should still pick up the phone and give them a call, even if it’s been a few years. You never know what could come out of it.

2. Turn off mental multi-tasking

We’ve all heard that multi-tasking is counter-productive. But what about mental-multitasking? This could be making a grocery list in your head while you’re dining out with your aunt. Or worrying about all the other things you “should” be doing on your evening walk.

Mental multi-tasking prevents us from being fully present.

In fact, much of that stressed-out feeling that there’s not enough time in the day for everything we want to do comes from competing desires. So what if you made a firm decision to just focus on one thing at a time? Think how much calmer you’d be.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, you can become?more?productive by doing?less. In this interview between?Charley Gilkey, creator of the free planners I recently featured, and Andrea Owen of the Your Kick-Ass Life podcast, you’ll discover great tips on how to combat overwhelm.

3. Make time to unwind

This could be taking a walk, stretching, or just staring into space. For me, meditation works best.

If you’re like me and try to pile as many things as possible into each day, meditation might seem like a waste of time. But trust me, it’s not.

It’s so crucial to turn off your brain and make space for silence, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I find that I accomplish much more during the day if I take those extra few minutes because it quiets all the chatter in my head so I can actually focus. It also gives me space to reprioritize and determine what is and isn’t working in my life.

I prefer guided meditations. This one, on how to stop being pulled in different directions, is one of my favorites.

4. Dump the nagging to-dos into one central list

If you have an itinerary for the day, or plan to just relax, items that are not part of your plan might pop up in your head out of nowhere. For me, it’s always little bits and pieces I need to add to my blog or pins I need to make. Things I hadn’t thought about in months, if ever, all of a sudden take on paramount importance!

The best thing to do with these incessant buzzing thoughts is to dump them all into one list. From time to time, you can refer back to this list and see if those items still are still relevant. Most of the time, they won’t be.

5. Remember what truly matters

It’s important to accomplish your goals, but in the grand scheme of things, does it really matter if you nailed every single one? Because I save my lists electronically, I often look back on unfinished lists I wrote several months ago and don’t even recognize — or care about– half the items.

On the other hand, when I reflect back on my year, I remember the times spent with loved ones. The laughter. The you-had-to-be-there moments.

The reason it’s so important for me to get my books and blog posts out there is so I can give something of value to the world. But it’s also important to enrich the lives of those closest to me.

So if you’re a Type A, you might need to schedule friends-and-family-time into your day. If an evening hangout seems like a big commitment, start small. Start with a phone call or a card.

You’ll be happy you did.

Are you ready to escape the hamster wheel once and for all so you can enjoy life in all its richness? Go here to discover a technique that’s so simple yet amazingly effective!

What measures have you taken to relax so that your days off don’t just turn into work days?


15 thoughts on “How to Get Off the Treadmill of Life and Actually Enjoy Time Off”

  1. I think I mentally said ?me too? at least half a dozen times to this! Completely guilty of the mental list making during other activities. Although multitasking is an be a strength, even a talent, I often take to the limit and the result is never being in the present. I use exercise,journaling and lists to help me out and I can say I?m way better than I used to be. Progress not perfection!Thanks for the great read!

    1. Thank you, Stacy, I’m so happy it resonated with you! Making lists is so helpful — any time I found myself stressing out about everything I have to do or multitasking, I make a list and then I’ll see that most of the things on the list aren’t even that important.

  2. Thanks for this. It is important we learn how to find balance. Sometimes we are always on “the go” and forget that sometimes, things can wait. I have absolutely enjoyed my time off from work this week. I didn’t make any plans and just went with it.

    1. Absolutely, Tren! Yes, any time I find myself trying to do work when I should just be relaxing, I ask myself how important it really is and the truth is, most things can wait. Not making plans is such a freeing feeling!

  3. I have planned things on my day off that promote taking time to myself such as massages, read book, music, yoga etc. My problem is when I see others not relaxing that I feel I should being doing more haha

    1. I know exactly how you feel, Jessica! When people around you are constantly talking about (and doing) “the hustle,” it’s easy to get swept up in it and feel guilty for taking time out. I think the key is prioritizing these things just as you would a job and remembering that unwinding occasionally helps your productivity in the long run.

  4. This is so true! How much time do we spend running after what we think we should be doing and we forget to live? Isn’t it sad? Thank you for your great advises Kate! 🙂 What helped me to slow down over the past few years is also mindfulness meditation. Highly recommended 😉

    1. Thanks, Giulia! Yes, meditation has been key for me, too. It’s easy to overlook in the rush of daily life, but when I squeeze in a few extra minutes, it makes such a big difference!

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