Opinion

3 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Annual Leave Even if You Don’t Go Overseas or Spend a Fortune

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Joanne Poh

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I’ve noticed this pattern amongst Singaporean employees. People plan their annual leave meticulously around their overseas holidays, often months in advance. But nobody ever wants to just take the day off to spend in Singapore, viewing it as a waste of that precious, limited supply of vacation time. And yes, this happens even when people know they can’t roll over a portion of their leave to the next year.

That’s because people think it’s a waste of time just taking leave and spending it at home, especially when there’s stuff to be done at the office and a harassing call from your boss is likely. Well guess what, it’s a waste of time only if you choose to waste it.

A day off with no particular plan in mind can feel like a complete waste of life if you spend it sitting in front of your computer surfing internet forums, just like you do every day at work. It can also feel even less exciting than being at the office if you wind up wandering aimlessly through an overcrowded mall.

But that doesn’t mean you need to enroll yourself into one of those expensive art jam sessions or check into a spa to make your day worthwhile. Here are three tips for making the most out of a day of leave no matter what your budget.

 

It’s not what you do, but how well you plan

It all sounds very tiring, but planning your day off will help you feel a lot more fulfilled than simply letting the day pass you by in a passive manner.

The reason many Singaporeans say their weekends are boring is because they choose to let their free time slip by without doing anything purposeful or deliberate. They spend the entire afternoon browsing their smartphones or chatting on WhatsApp, veg out in front of the TV the entire afternoon and then spend the evening posting trolling comments on social media.

Now, it’s not that any of this is inherently bad. If you do just that consciously and intentionally (“today I’m going to spend the entire afternoon watching Game of Thrones”) you could well end up feeling great. But it’s when you have zero intentions for the day and just end up listlessly doing nothing that you feel like you’ve wasted your day.

So let your leave days be as eventful, as relaxed or as cheap as you like. But just make sure you plan for them. Sure, there’s always room for spontaneity, such as when your friend calls you out for an unplanned beer in the evening. But try to minimise the amount of time that passes with you staring at your smartphone and wondering what the hell you’re doing with your life.

 

Be aware of your surroundings and stay comfortable

Have you ever noticed how those zombies wandering through crowded shopping malls are totally unaware of their surroundings? They walk around in a total haze, not realising when they’re blocking people’s way and stopping abruptly in the middle of a crowded pathway just to… I  don’t know… drool?

These people are totally zoned out, and would probably not immediately notice if the shopping mall suddenly got flooded with faeces like this club apparently did. Their day passes by in a blur. Now, if that’s how you’re going to spend your day off, you might as well spend it at the office.

A day off is precious, so you’ve got to savour every moment of it to make it worthwhile. After all, that time off is technically worth a day’s wages.

So you want to be as conscious of your surroundings as possible, and to make yourself as comfortable as possible. Let’s say you want to read a book. Instead of plonking yourself down on your sofa with your kids’ screaming or your mum’s nagging reverberating through the air, head to your neighbourhood park instead. You’ll immediately feel more relaxed, yet it takes conscious observation of your surroundings to prompt you to make the move there.

Even if you have decided to head to the malls on your day off, there’s still lots you can do to keep yourself comfortable.

Time your journey so you avoid the MRT during peak hour, bring along a water bottle and snacks (hiking through malls is seriously tiring considering there are some malls that are now as big as the Botanic Gardens), and pause for some downtime on a bench or public library if you get overwhelmed by the crowds.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money to be comfortable, you just need to be always evaluating your surroundings and thinking of how you can make yourself feel better. Sure, if you don’t mind spending you can always take taxis everywhere. But it doesn’t cost you a cent to plan your route so you avoid peak hour traffic.

 

Accomplish something

People tend to think of their day off as a wasted day because they could be at the office, doing even more work.

But nobody ever said you couldn’t accomplish something on your day off. There’s probably a ton of stuff you’ve wanted to do in your spare time (and if there isn’t, you need a life) other than work. Well, now’s your chance.

Singaporeans complain they have no time to read, and judging by the soaring rates of diabetes, nobody’s exercising, either. Or maybe you see your kids so seldom they’re starting to confuse you with random aunties or uncles on the street.

Well, your day off gives you the chance to do all of the above and more. Plan to accomplish something you’ve been putting off for a while, whether it’s finally checking out the HSBC treetop walk, starting that book on world history or finally getting grandma to teach you how to cook.

In order to stay within your budget, it’s a great idea to make a list of all the things you want to do. You’ll realise there are cheaper options mixed in with the expensive ones—for instance, you might want to get your boating licence as well as start running. Listing all your options helps you to see that there are many cheap options available, too. Pick one and plan to do it.

When you accomplish something that matters to you, you’re not going to be as paranoid about how the world is going to end just because you didn’t show up at the office for one day.

How do you usually spend your annual leave? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.