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This week we are skipping the normal energy fustian and talking about the beloved and hated vacation.  I’ve come to this conclusion: if a person’s vacation is actually worth anything – time off, sleeping in, mental vacation, recreation, forgetting work, phone calls and email, n’stuff, the vacationer’s coworkers must be growling about it back at the office.  Why?  Not because they are envious (necessarily) – everyone needs a vacation – but because of the piling on of all the vacationer’s stuff, especially stuff coworkers are not familiar with, and stuff that can’t wait for the vacationer’s return.

First, back up a bit and start with the long weekend – taking off one or two days to go on a weekend sojourn somewhere or maybe visiting family for the weekend.  The wellness professional, psychologist, and maybe HR would advise that you cut the cord and enjoy your trip or time with the family to kingdom come.  The same folks most likely ascribe to “work smarter, not harder”.  Attention: anyone giving you this advice has probably done neither.

The long weekend works like this: you need to get a bunch of crap out the door a day or two before it’s due, which means burning hours at night and possibly the weekend before.  Then, when you return, a big pile of time-consuming stuff is waiting for you.  On the bright side, a long weekend often means a two day weekend instead of the usual 1.5 day weekend!

So what to do?  You get on the smart phone and pedal through email while the family is distracted to avoid being nagged.  You either pedal through email on your free time, or you don’t, and instead think of the pile developing for your return so you can work every hour of paid time off you spent, and then some.  If you pedal email while it arrives, maybe, quite possibly, you can get someone else back at the office to take care of some of it.  Unfortunately for the vacationer, most things can wait a day or two until the vacationer returns – haha!  See?  Your coworkers still like you.

It just occurred to me that there must be an app that plays game sounds to trick your vacation companions into thinking you’re enjoying yourself during vacation while you pedal email.  But then people who need this most don’t play video games.

Now consider a week or two weeks off.  I’ve read studies about the need to be cut off from civilization for 3-4 days for the vacation mindset to establish itself.  I buy this.  Well, guess what, if you have to handle something, an email or phone call midweek, you might as well go home and save some money.  The entire vacation is blown to bits.  The mental health/personal coach/HR guy: resist – you can do it.  Sure, if you can sleep while you know your huge client or major prospective project hangs in the balance.  Plan for it to avoid this scenario?  Sure.  Explain that to the 50 people involved inside/outside the client’s circle of influencers, including regulators.

They say the meteorologist has a great job because he/she gets paid to be wrong all the time.  I say they have a great job because nothing piles up on them while they are away and somebody else handles 100% of wrong predictions in their absence.

So, the worthwhile vacation comes down to some combination of the following:

  • You make your coworkers jump through hoops that may take them hours to reinvent cutlery, when you could just as well tell them the answer in 21.67 seconds and relinquish all value of your vacation.  [note – I’d rather take the call in this case]
  • Blow it off, letting the chips fall while frustrating clients, losing projects, and passing up opportunities.  [yes, sometimes opportunities just have to slide – it’s a fact]
  • Hand over entire projects to someone who will take care of everything.
  • Work like mad before and after vacation and handle things that surface during vacation with your smart phone and computer so the vacation is more of a weekend that lasts one or two weeks.

But then, none of this matters if we don’t love what we do, would it?

Jeff Ihnen

Author Jeff Ihnen

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