We've all been there: all year long, we pine for a vacation and some time to ourselves. But then when an unsolicited break from work arrives, we spend the entire time stressing about all the work we're not doing, or about whether or not a new project will come along, and we forget to enjoy it. Furthermore, when we start back again, it's as if we have forgotten how to do our jobs.
After eleven years in the business of seasonal sound work, I've developed some skills as to how to take a break from work and come back fresh (instead of reeling to catch up). I'd love to share them with you:
1. Acknowledge that the universe has given you a gift.
Or, your employer has. Whether this is an unwanted hiatus or a holiday vacation, consider it a blessing and not an additional stress in your life. Even if you're mentally scrambling to think of how you'll find the next project or find yourself stressing over whether or not your show will get picked up for next season, enjoy this break. The first time I went on hiatus between shows, I was alarmed. I felt this overwhelming sense of panic, but a seasoned coworker advised me not to stress. She told me, "Just think of this as the universe giving you a chance to do all the things you want to do."
This was possibly the best advice I've ever received. Go for a hike every day. Drink a leisurely cup of french press coffee while reading the entire home page of the New York Times. Sign up for Spanish classes. Travel to Spain. Actually stock your fridge with fresh food and then cook it yourself. Train for a 5k. These are all things I've done during a hiatus. The world is filled with pleasures small and large, and many of them are impossible to enjoy while working. Consider this break a gift, and don't squander it. If you're lucky, you might even be able to continue some of these newfound joys after returning to work.
2. Do not think about your job.
Yes, if you are between jobs, you should spend time finding a new one. But, you can only spend so much time doing that. Don't get sucked into spending countless hours scanning LinkedIn and forget about #1.
More than that, though, I mean do not think about your actual job. Don't stress about emails you should be sending or whether or not your show will get done when you return from vacation. You can't help any of those things by thinking about them; you're just wasting your precious free time.
3. Do think about your craft.
Avoid thinking about your job, but do think about your craft. I went on a short holiday cruise with my family this year, and while I managed not to check my email obsessively or worry about upcoming deadlines, I did take time to listen to the sound of the ocean and I carefully stored that away for future use in my sound design work.
4. When you return from a break, take a moment to reacquaint yourself with your work.
Whether you took a short vacation or spent the summer on hiatus, it can be difficult to remember how to efficiently do your job. I've found the the most effective way to reacquaint myself with my job is to open a previous session. I'm always pleasantly surprised at how good everything sounds in hindsight, and looking at the particular files helps to remind me which sounds are my go-to favorites. Taking 20 minutes to do this first thing when I start work again saves me hours in the long run.