Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Work-Life Balance

4 Totally Fair Reasons to Take a Guilt-Free Personal Day

person relaxed
PeopleImages/Getty Images

Remember when you were a kid and you’d pretend to be sick because you didn’t want to go to school that day?

Well, when you’re an adult, you technically don’t have to pretend anymore. You can just take a personal day when you need a break.

But that’s always easier said than done, right? It’s hard to look your boss (and your co-workers) in the eye and say that you’re taking a day off for personal reasons. But if you have personal days worked into your benefits, you 100% should be taking them!

So, when can you let yourself off the guilt hook and take advantage of those personal day you’ve earned?

Here are four times you deserve to stay at home, unplug, and relax—completely guilt-free.

1. You Could Really Use the Day Off for a Doctor’s Appointment/Family Matter/Moving

We all know how hard it can be to lock down that dentist appointment when your dentist’s been booked up for months. Or, how challenging it is to pack up your entire apartment to move when your only free time is after work, when you’re exhausted.

You shouldn’t feel guilty for using one of your PTO days to take care of a personal matter (they’re called personal days after all). Especially if the situation feels nothing like something you’d categorize under a “vacation day” or “sick day.”

As Muse editor, Stacey Lastoe, perfectly puts it, “a personal day can be just that, something more personal that you’re less likely to be pressed about, even casually.”

2. You Haven’t Taken a Break in a Really Long Time

Maybe it’s been many months since your last vacation, or you haven’t missed a single day of work in the past year (not even when everyone else was out sick with the flu).

Sure, maybe you’re not burned out, but you’ve also been working hard, and a day off sounds really good right about now.

You’ve earned yourself a break—and you’d be surprised how much more refreshed you’ll feel after even a day away from your computer.

3. You’re Burning Out (and People Are Starting to Notice)

Of course, if you haven’t taken many days off and you find yourself losing steam, patience, and quite possibly your head, I not only recommend but insist you take a day for yourself.

And chances are I’m not the only one who thinks so. If you can feel yourself burning out—and fast—your team can probably sense it, too. Maybe you’re turning in sub-par work, or constantly missing deadlines, or quiet in brainstorming sessions. Regardless, you’re not contributing a whole lot, and might benefit from some time off.

4. You Don’t Have Any Plans to Use Up Your PTO Days

Let’s say your company gives you 15 total PTO days. You use a couple when you’re deathly ill, maybe one for a long weekend, but besides that you’re just not the vacation type. For you, using up a week’s worth of days doesn’t seem necessary, and yet you’re getting paid for them, so you can’t not use them.

This could be a great opportunity to take time here or there when you find yourself tired, overwhelmed, or just in need of a lazy day.

Skipping out on work when you don’t have a “legitimate” (in professional terms) reason can feel sleazy, but in reality you’re probably a lot more blameless than you’d think.

Personal days are meant for helping you be your best work self—just like vacation and sick days—which can mean anything from recovering from mental and emotional exhaustion (read: burnout) to getting your life under control so you can come back to work ready to be productive.

So really, using them is one of the smartest things you can do in your career.

Ready to take the leap? Here’s how to ask your boss for time off the right way.