We’d love for everyone to be able to travel as much as they possibly can, but sometimes, life (or a nasty respiratory disease) gets in the way, and your two weeks of paid time off cannot be spent sunbathing in Tahiti. Some people may not have the luxury of rescheduling their days to later in the year, or those days rolling over into the next year. Although it can feel like a waste of a much-anticipated break, staying at home during your annual vacation might be just what you need to get your life in order.

In 2019, for the second year in a row, my thoroughly planned trip to the Arctic was canceled. The first year, I decided to cancel my vacation time and work as usual. What I thought was a wise decision turned out to be an exhausting mistake — the combination of the disappointment, the frenzy of canceling everything, and the lack of rest that I needed did a number on my well-being. So, the second time around, I decided to just keep my scheduled time off.

Out of the four weeks of vacation I had booked, I used two of them to stay at home and do the things that needed to be done: a ton of paperwork. I had a few years of taxes to claim (don’t judge), and I needed to get an immigration application done. Those were huge anxiety-inducing preoccupations in my life, and if I could take care of them in the two weeks I had, I could finally sleep at night. And I did. At the end of the two weeks, I had sent everything that needed to be sent and ended up believing that the cancellation was a godsend.
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Tackle the paperwork

Doing paperwork in the evening after a full day’s work sucks. Doing paperwork on the weekend when you’re supposed to take it easy sucks even more. Paperwork is boring and stressful, but if you have a couple of weeks of free time ahead of you, tackling a mountain of visa bills, receipts, and bank statements can be done a little at a time, with tea breaks and walks in between, and does not feel as daunting.

Start with getting organized. Dig out all the binders, plastic sleeves, and sticky labels you can find and file away. Once the paperwork is organized and easy to find, it won’t be such a drag to get things done regularly — half the pain of paperwork is locating the things we need when we need them.

Once your stuff is tidy, tackle one topic at a time: If you’ve been thinking that your bank fees are too high but have not had the time to look into it, do it now. If your passport expires in the next six months, it may be time to get the forms for a renewal. If you’ve been wanting to switch all your paper bills to digital format, get on it. Getting all these mundane tasks done will give you a sense of achievement and make you feel proud of yourself.

And if you have not filed your taxes, now is the time to do it. The relief that comes with having them sent way before the deadline has no match. Once you’ve hit the send button or dropped it off at the post office, celebrate with a much-deserved tipple — you’re not working tomorrow, so you can go to town.

Get started on a workout or wellness routine

Finding time for fitness when you have a busy work schedule can be difficult, especially if you’re the type of person who does not get easily motivated or if you have a family that needs caring for.

Take advantage of being at home and schedule-free to test online workout programs like YogaGlo for unlimited yoga, meditation, and pilates, or Sweat for a more intense workout. Find out what you like by testing a few classes regularly during your vacation — the benefits you’ll gain during that time will make it easier to keep up the habit when you resume work.

If you prefer to exercise outside the house (and are able to), use your free time to find out about the gyms near you and the classes they offer. If something sounds interesting to you, test it out. Trying out a new fitness class at lunchtime or between work and supper is never ideal to start a routine and can be intimidating; instead, do it when you have ample time to prepare and recover, so you’ll know what you need for the classes when you go back to work. Giving the gym a try when you’re relaxed and open to new activities might lead to a passion for Zumba, an obsession with spin class, or even an interest in aquafit. Once you’ve found out what you like and have tested it a couple of times, it’ll be easier to stick to it in the long run.

Create a budget

Everyone should have a budget. Whether you’ve got money coming out the yin-yang or you’re struggling to make ends meet, budgeting is an essential part of living a more relaxed life. Nobody likes to sit down and look in detail at their finances because it’s time-consuming and can lead to a lot of anxiety, but when you have the bandwidth and have eliminated the stress of work, dive into the numbers because it will change your life for the better.

An Excel sheet is probably best, but if you’re more into old-fashioned methods, a notebook, pencil, and calculator will do the trick just fine. All you need to do is to grab your visa bills and bank statements and compare the income to the spendings. Categorize your spendings into essentials like groceries, rent, student loans, etc. and the non-essentials like eating out, clothing, and spa treatments. Taking half a day out of your vacation to look at your finances and create a budget is eye-opening and a great way to adopt a more reasonable spending regimen that’ll help you save money and pay off your debts faster. And more money put aside and fewer debts mean you can travel more in the future, so get budgeting.

Tidy up your online presence

We’d rather you stayed away from the screen during your time off, but because our phones, laptops, and tablets are such a large part of our life, it may just be impossible to do so when staying at home. That said, there’s a way to be online and be productive. If you’ve been wanting to get your online presence tidier and more secure, your time at home might provide a great opportunity to do it. A few of the things you can tackle are:

  • Get yourself a password manager system and change all the passwords on your important accounts to make them safer.
  • Update your security questions for your online banking and emails. Lie when answering them so that nobody will ever figure them out.
  • Dive into your personal inbox and trash the useless emails you’ve been hoarding since 2009.
  • Unsubscribe from all the businesses that send you emails that you don’t care one bit about.
  • Really look into the privacy settings of your social media accounts and make sure they are up to your expectations.
  • Take the time to actually delete all those embarrassing posts from high school.
  • Update your Linkedin account. You never know when a headhunter will stumble upon your profile and offer you your dream job.

Kick clutter in the rear

Nobody’s got the time to go full Marie Kondo when they work eight or more hours a day. But if you know you’re collecting things you don’t need, and you are seeing your living space being reduced by the amount of stuff you stock in your home, use your couple of weeks of vacation to sort it all out.

Going room by room is easier than trying to tackle the whole house at once, so get started with the areas you know hide the most stuff and start to make choices. By now, you know what the rule is: Keep only the things you need and the things that make you happy — repurpose, donate, recycle, or sell the rest.

Decluttering will eventually lead to cleaning and tidying up, and there’s no better feeling than having improved a space that needed it badly. Not only will the feeling of accomplishment be immense, but starting work again and coming home to a clean and tidy house will allow you to relax when you truly need it.

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