Two weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about fatigue, about how —
even if you love a job, the work you do, the tasks that make up your employment
— you can easily reach a point where you need to make some changes and/or get
And then, after writing that blog post, I disappeared for a
little over two weeks.
Now, in this case, it wasn’t fatigue (even though that post was
based on some fatigue I was experiencing.) No, instead, it was just serendipitous
timing whereby I took off for a two-week vacation. Now, I probably could have
worked on some blog posts or done some editing to the draft of the book I’m supposed
to be working on or prepared for some of the presentations I will be
giving in a few weeks. But, I chose to do none of those. Instead, I just kind
of turned everything off and allowed myself to enjoy and be lost in the city of
Paris (including Disneyland Paris; anyone who knows me could have warned you
that Disney would be part of the equation.)
Now, I return to the fray, refreshed and ready to take up
arms against whatever deadlines may be looming their ever-present horrors above
my typing fingers. (Well, kind of refreshed. There was a broken foot at the
very end of my expeditions. But, the less said about that, the better.)
And, in all honesty, I really am refreshed. When I dove into
the emails and deadlines this morning (Monday, as I type this) there was
actually an excitement about the whole thing. There was a (heaven help me)
thrill about getting back into the world of internal audit.
That isn’t to say that I went on that vacation harboring a
hatred for the profession or for the work I do within it. However, as alluded
to in the previous blog post (lo these many days ago), it was definitely time
for a break.
So, let me ask, what did you do on your last vacation?
I don’t mean did you go to Disneyland or DisneyWorld or
Disney’s Birthplace or the Bahamas or Hawaii or Vegas or Paris or Rome or London
or Brisbane or Syracuse or Saskatoon or Chattanooga or Tuscaloosa or Fargo or Roswell
or the Winchester House or The Enchanted Highway or The House on the Rock or Archie
Mcphee’s. (Note: Those last four are real things – you may want to look them up.)
What I mean is, what activities were you involved in? And then, the $64,000
question, did you actually spend more time on those activities than you did
calling in to meetings, answering emails, or working on the work from which you
were supposedly taking a vacation.
I know of far too many people that do not actually leave
work when they leave work. Instead, their minds are wrapped up in the minutiae
of their corporate existence, believing that they have to be constantly involved
in everything that is going on. I don’t know if it is fear that they will be
missed, fear that they will NOT be missed, or fear of having to actually spend
time with the family (and, if you find yourself feeling a couple of those, then
your demons are greater than anything I can exorcise in one, little blog post,)
but those people just cannot cut the cord — for a two-week vacation, for a three-day
weekend, or even for four hours at the end of the day.
Quick story: I literally had to mentor a friend of mine to
quit working weekends. Every single weekend she would take work home because it
was important, because there was a deadline, or because of some other darned important
reason. I started with making her ask herself this one simple question, “What
is the worst that can happen if you don’t get it done?”. If you find yourself
truly believing you cannot cut yourself out of the work flow, ask yourself that
question. Because, if you are being honest, the answer to “What is the worst
that can happen?” is usually “Not a whole heck of a lot.”
Here’s a lesson I learned a long time ago and practiced with
great diligence. Every day of my vacation I would assign 10 to 20 minutes – either in the morning or in the evening – to go through emails. They got
deleted, handed off to someone else to handle (the people who worked for me
knew I was gone and that they would be getting some of my work,) or, in a few,
very special cases, replied to
Nothing else, no other thoughts about work throughout the
day, no distractions from the real purpose of the vacation.
And, upon my return, the world had never come to an end, I
didn’t have a stack of emails waiting for me, and I was, almost always, relaxed
and ready to go.
All of the preceding is really nothing more than a reminder
that we all need to recharge our batteries. Study after study shows that overall
productivity for everyone increases when an actual break is taken. (I can’t find
any of them right now, but, honest, they say that.) And you have to take the
idea of a break seriously. Don’t just mouth the words, but really take a break.
And, if you come back talking about all the work you got done, take the
personal responsibility to slap yourself across the face and say “Just how big
an idiot are you?”
Now, the timing of this message, coming as it does at the
end of summer, may not be the best. Many vacations are over and a lot of “heading
for year-end” work is barreling down upon us. But that just means we need to
remember the message next year, or during the holidays, or even during that
next three-day weekend.
It’s called a vacation; actually vacate.