A productivity present to future self before time off

Stefano Bellucci Sessa
4 min readDec 23, 2021

This is an edited transcript of Episode 012 of Design, In Confidence, mindfulness & design podcast with Stefano Bellucci Sessa’s learnings on creative confidence, emotional intelligence, and mental health.

Pro and cons of long breaks

It’s obvious to say that work breaks are great. Whether you like your projects and your work or not, you can finally:

  • spend time with others, your family, your friends,
  • unwind
  • detach yourself from your project and clear your head

But coming back home for me wasn’t always easy.
I could hear a voice in my head like Jack Skellingtonon from Nightmare Before Christmas that goes

🎶

What’s this? What's this?
There’re post-its everywhere?
What’s this? What’s this?
Where do I start? Where?!

🎶

So, yeah, I kind of forget what I was working on and what other people were doing. And it was hard to follow up.

Also, the project sometimes stopped suddenly because we’re in the middle of something important. Taking a break made us lose the momentum of the activities we were doing.

Stick around, if you want to find out t how mindfulness and design help me be aware and in control of long breaks from the creative process.

Plan a handoff to yourself

It might sound obvious, but many forget.

I tried it the first time a few years ago. When we came back from holiday, everybody forgot everything we were doing, myself included. I could look back to this list that helped me bring me and others quickly back on track.

So, before your break, take some time to write down:

  • The focus of what you were doing.
  • The progress made
  • Compromises made and barriers overcome
  • New assumptions and risks

So, when you come back, you can remember what you need to prioritize and start from — it will be less overwhelming.

Find your own way to make that list– as long it helps you quickly be back in the mindset before your holiday.

Taking time off, while others keep working

In this case, it’s slightly different. Supporting each other to make sure everyone can be onboarded again is at the base of good teamwork.

In the past Christmas, I was in a great team that went on holiday in different moments. We made sure others knew what we left hanging before going off, and others prepared an onboarding when the other was back.

Make the best out of being out of the loop

Instead of seeing this as a problem see this as an opportunity.

During a project, you are deep into it, probably slightly confused by the too many things that need to be done and too many inputs received.
Being detached thanks to the holiday allows you to look at what you were doing with a critical eye.

If you work with others, they will make progress.
In that case, your critical eye will be really useful to understand whether they correctly made progress or not. You are at the same time:

  • familiar with the project enough to understand everything
  • detached from the project enough to be neutral

They will have to explain to you progresses, changes of focus, data collected. You will be able to tell them whether they have done it correctly or not.

Planning design process before and after the time off

Avoid going on holiday with an activity that isn’t completely finished–like the planning of something or a group of interviews.

Be mindfully aware and in control of how the time off will interrupt your process so that you can use it to your advantage. The design process requires wearing different hats — so make sure your break matches with a change of mindset.

For example, finish the round of user interviews before your holidays, detach, and then analysis them after the break.
Keep in mind that dealing with lots of information after the holiday removes biases, but it’s overwhelming. In that case, you might prefer to analyse the data before, and synthase it after — making sure that the analysis made sense.

The same with planning ideation before the holidays, and prioritisation after. Of course, as I said before, make a good “handoff” by writing down the ideas in a self-explanatory way. Otherwise, once back, you won’t remember what the ideas are. A post-it with a word is not an idea anymore once forgotten.

Capitalise on the time off

The last suggestion is to plan an activity that runs on its own during the holidays. For example a survey or an online experiment. They will capture information while off, that you’ll have ready to use once back.

In conclusion

Enjoy your time off. Plan activities before and after. Make the best out of being out of the loop.

And let me know how it goes. Let me know how you design your confidence when coming back to work after a long break.

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If you got this far, I’m sure you’re a great listener — which I thank you for.
And now, it’s time to listen to your thoughts.
And remember to thank yourself, for the time you spent to learn, and grow.

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Stefano Bellucci Sessa

Innovation consultant and design thinking evangelist, helping organisations create experiences that improve the world we live in.