The 12 Days of Staycation: Read, Recharge and Reset for the Year Ahead

Most of us don’t have 12 days off during the holiday season. But that’s okay. Dedicate some of your time off to a staycation. If you plan and prepare as suggested below, a staycation will feel and turn out differently than your usual time off.

Listen here, you need to take time off

As a fellow striver, I understand the desire to catch up and get ahead with work and other life chores, but you can do that another time. You need dedicated time off to decompress and fill the well. 

If “I’m too busy” automatically pops into your head, pause and interrogate that idea. Are you someone who is always too busy? What’s that all about? Or is this really a bad time because your annual is just around the corner?

Maybe your boss is the problem. My sister-in-law has one of those bosses. You know the type: first one in and last to leave. They never miss a chance to let the world know how busy they are. (They must be so important!) This boss hasn’t taken a vacation in two years because, you guessed it, she’s too busy. 

I call BS. You and my sister-in-law deserve better than that. Take time off to recharge and reset—and brush up your LinkedIn profile and resume. 

An Indian philosopher once said, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” 

Time off boosts work performance, per Ernst & Young and Harvard Business Review. Downtime improves creative thinking and leads to fresh insight, perspectives, and solutions—just what you need to wrestle with the challenges and opportunities facing your association. 

It’s time to plan and prepare for the 12 Days of Staycation. 

Plan your 12 Days of Staycation

Simply anticipating time away boosts happiness, so you’re off to a good start. Be intentional about how you want to spend your staycation or you’ll end up catching up on email newsletters (guilty!). Think about what you want to get out of this time. Write down your priorities and goals. 

You have decisions to make.

•    Will you spend your staycation at home or elsewhere?
•    Will you be alone or with others? You may have no choice. Think about solo and group activities for a family or couple’s staycation. A Google search (or ChatGPT request) will deliver lots of ideas for family staycations.
•    How are you going to shake up your routine so the days don’t feel like regular time off?

Prepare for your staycation

Here’s what to do ahead of time. 

•    Book a place if you want to spend your staycation in a nearby hotel or rental.
•    Make reservations for tours, classes, shows, dinners, or other activities. 
•    Block out time in your calendar and schedule activities.
•    Alert people who need to know you’re going offline.
•    Get book recommendations, make a reading list, and borrow or buy books. 
•    Prepare or order ready-made meals. Stock up the freezer and frig so you don’t have to cook or go out—unless that’s part of your plan.

As you read through the staycation days below, think about what to do ahead to ensure your time is well spent. Choose the best days for you (and your ideal self). Put them in any order you wish. You can combine many of them into one day.

The 12 Days of Staycation

1st Day of Staycation: Unplug and eliminate work triggers

Forget your usual morning routine, unless you’re one of those people with an enviable routine. Today, make time for new staycation habits. Maybe you wake up before dawn, meditate, do yoga, go for a walk, do a workout, or write in your journal. What would your ideal self do? 

Set boundaries. Turn on your out-of-office reply. Turn off email and Slack notifications. Temporarily delete your work email and Slack from your phone.

Hide signs of the office, like your tote bag, backpack, or briefcase. If you’re spending staycation time in a home office, clear the desk. Change the atmosphere, perhaps with different music, lighting, or décor. 

Promise to watch less TV, play fewer video games, and spend less time on the web. You want this staycation to feel different, right? If you end up going down the email or social media rabbit hole, it will be like stuffing yourself with fast food. You won’t feel good about yourself later.

2nd Day of Staycation: Get outside

Getting out in nature is good for our brain and mental health. Tree or cactus therapy reminds us of our connectedness to everything else in the web of life. Walk in the park, take a hike, or relax by a pond, lake, or ocean.

Embrace the weather. It’s not cold, it’s brisk! If conditions are unbearable or unsafe, bring the outside in. Buy houseplants, supermarket herb plants, or a landscape print.

3rd Day of Staycation: Move your body

Exercise is good for the brain too—we’re all about the brain this week. Walk, dance with yourself, do yoga with Adrienne (and her dog) on YouTube, find a fitness video on YouTube (there are tons!), go to a gym or attend a class, take a hike, go swimming, stretch, play with your kids, or chase your cat around the house.

4th Day of Staycation: Enjoy a snow day

“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.” Charles Dickens laying down some wisdom. No snow required.

Play. Let loose, be spontaneous, and get excited about stuff. Remember how it felt as a kid to just follow your whims? 

Play in the yard, park, or living room. Decorate cookies, make a fort, erect a tent, or try your hand at a gingerbread house. Put together models, Legos, or puzzles. No perfectionism allowed! 

Did you make reservations for activities? Go rock climbing, rafting, skating, skiing, sailing, or whatever floats your boat. 

5th Day of Staycation: Slow down and make space for something new

We’re always rushing around, dealing with chores, kids, parents, and errands. No rushing during staycation. Slow down your pace. Make an effort to do everything slower. We usually operate in automatic mode, not observing the world around us, not seeing opportunities. Take it all in. 

Declutter your schedule, your surrounds, and your mind. Organize your home office. You don’t want to spend staycation doing chores, but if purging a shelf, desk drawer, or closet will make you feel a little more zen, then go for it. When you get rid of the old, you make physical and mental space for the new.

staycation feet up warm drink in front of the fire

6th Day of Staycation: Reflect and breathe

People who reflect on past experiences are more likely to be happy and satisfied with their lives. Do a Google search for end-of-year reflection guides, like these: Career Whispers and Unravel Your Year.

Build unstructured time into your staycation too. Put the to-do list away. Sit in a chair and just think for 20 minutes or so. Todd Henry describes this as his sacred space, a concept he borrowed from Joseph Campbell. 

Expand this to meditation, which people make far too complicated. Expect your brain to go into overactive mode (monkey mind) while trying to meditate, i.e., trying to focus on your breath. Meditation is simply noticing these constant interruptions, acknowledging them, and returning to your breath. That’s it, so you can see, it’s easy to do. 

If sitting still isn’t your thing, meditate while stretching. Focus on the sensation in your muscles. 

7th Day of Staycation: Feed your brain

This is the most essential activity for a staycation. Many of us put off professional development because, say it all together now, we’re too busy. 

Now’s your chance to read books and newsletters, watch webinar recordings, or take an online class or course. 

If future travel plans take you abroad, find an app or online platform where you can learn the basics of a new language. 

Feed both your personal and professional interests. While learning how to make a pie crust, your work mind will noodle away in the background.

8th Day of Staycation: Take a field trip  

Be a tourist in your own city. Check out TripAdvisor to find museums, historical sites, urban walks, or other places to explore. Buy a staycation souvenir that will remind you of this time.

In Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, she suggests taking artist dates, “a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you.” If you’re staycating with a partner, spend the day apart and then meet for dinner and drinks.

9th Day of Staycation: Set intentions for the coming year

How would your ideal self want to behave in the coming year? What would you like to spend more time (and less time) doing? 

Maybe you want to develop a few new habits. Acquire new skills and knowledge. Explore new ideas, activities, or places. 

What can you commit to? Do you need an accountability buddy or group?

Project-manage your professional life. Start with a charter and goals. Develop a timeline and budget. Outline your responsibilities. Break large initiatives into baby steps. What’s the first step you can take today or this week? 

10th Day of Staycation: Treat yourself

Having done life-transforming work, it’s time to treat yourself to something you don’t normally do because “it’s not practical.” 

•    Get your house cleaned
•    Have a fancy night out, like dinner and a show
•    Do a spa day—at home or at a spa
•    Buy yourself flowers

Take a day trip or book a night at the beach, shore, or mountains. If nothing’s within driving distance, a nice hotel, resort, or rental in a beautiful setting will work. Enjoy the view and spend time in the lobby, soaking up the energy of the other guests.

Or stay home and travel through food. Buy a cookbook and try recipes for breakfast, dinner, or dessert. Or go to a high-end grocery store or farmers market and splurge on quality ingredients, like oysters and champagne, charcuterie, ready-made nibblies, or pastries.

11th Day of Staycation: Do good and feel good

The best way to feel good is to do good. There’s nothing like it. Slow down and make space in your life for being generous and caring. 

Volunteer or bring your decluttered items somewhere for donation. Invite people over for a meal, coffee, or drinks. Don’t stress. Just enjoy yourself and their company.

Look for opportunities to make calls or send out emails, texts, cards, or messages to: 

•    Give someone a compliment
•    Express your appreciation or congratulations
•    Connect them with someone
•    Help with something

Don’t underestimate how good people will feel when they receive these kindnesses. 

12th Day of Staycation: Get your professional life in order

Especially if you have one of those bosses! 

What it takes to get your professional life in order depends on your intentions for the year ahead. 

•    Update and polish your LinkedIn profile, resume, and social media bios.
•    Think about how you use social media professionally and whether you want to change your routines. Research best practices.
•    Make a networking plan. I know a guy who randomly calls people in his network. Yes, on the phone! Set up Zooms for morning coffee or afternoon breaks.
•    Read online community digests every day to spot opportunities to help others publicly or privately.

Develop a professional development plan for the year ahead. It’s worth investing your own money if your employer is not supportive. Think about who you want to be and what you want to be doing this time next year and two years from now. Find out what you need to learn to be that ideal self. Find real-life person like that and talk to them about their journey. 

Join associations or membership groups that will help you acquire the network and skills you seek. If you already belong to an organization, make time to participate in discussions, attend events, and/or volunteer

A staycation helps you make the space to reflect about your life and rethink what you’re doing. It recharges you and refills your creative well. And, most importantly, it gets you excited again about your future. 

lifelong learning
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