I took this picture when I was wandering the streets of Paris. I was on vacation, actively ignoring my phone and its functionalities, save, the camera. And on vacation or not, when I see lemons, I snap.
Second sentence, first few words: I – was – on – vacation. The fact that I was on what I call a “real” vacation was significant because I couldn’t recall the last time I REALLY vacationed; I was unpracticed.
For years, I worked tirelessly for people who vacationed quite a bit, but my responsibility load made it hard to vacation, myself. (If you happen to be a high-level assistant, I’m sure you empathize.) Then I started a business, and went from having very little “fun” money for a couple of years, to a serious responsibility load to my clients. (If you’re everyone else in the work world these days, I’m sure you can empathize.)
Can’t do it. I am never going to be able to do it. My clients will panic and move on. My selfish indulgence will be misunderstood and business – both the work I receive and entity I created – will suffer. (A selection of excuses I used over the years to avoid planning a “real” vacation.”)
So, it was going to be IMPOSSIBLE. Me? Take a vacation? To me, a real vacation is one in which my brain disconnects from business life, and bathes in relaxation/downtime/fun/and-the-balance-part-of-work-life-balance. Even just a scan of emails, or listening to a voicemail message is going to pull my brain into work mode and distract me from the mission at hand: being on vacation.
In the age of “devices” and worldwide wifi accessibility (in Paris, they pronounce it “weefee”), my definition of vacation may be extreme. You may feel better scrolling through your inbox before heading to the beach, or doing a little bit of work before seeing the sites….maybe that allows you to enjoy your chosen vacations. Maybe you’ve got a more efficient recharge mechanism.
No matter the individual definition, there are a LOT of people (a lot of assistants I know) who are downtime-deprived, let alone vacation-deprived.
Be warned, dear readers, that today, I advise clients to not hire workaholics who don’t seem to have a life. And I challenge mentees to take breaks they are convinced don’t belong to them. Because of this, I started to feel like a big hypocrite; I would not advise a client to hire me as an employee. Sure, the gal screams “work ethic” and “determination”; she’s also probably a walking health issue! (When you’re done reading this, Google: “impact no vacation”)
January 17 – 22, 2017, I swallowed my own medicine; I disconnected from my “job,” and reintroduced myself to the person who crafts an “out of office” auto reply, and sticks to the rules laid out in that message. I went to Paris, and the business stayed home. The new emails stayed in their inbox, the clients and business associates sat tight, and statuses remained.
We all survived. My active clients knew I would be away, and we planned around the trip. The out-of-office reply hit those who tried to reach me that week, and patiently awaited my return. The work remained. The business remained. And she remained. She remained the same driven, dedicated, hard-working gal she’s always been….with a few more miles toward her Delta status, a few more pictures on her phone, and a renewed appreciation for the work that allowed her to take that vacation in the first place.
Your takeaway from this?
ADVICE FOR EMPLOYERS
If you cannot remember the last time your employee took so much as a day off, find at least one date on your calendar that you know you can fly solo, and book this person a day off. Then, commit to allowing this person to be off, don’t contact him/her that day, and don’t let on that the day was tougher than usual because that person was off.
ADVICE FOR ASSISTANTS
Give yourself a break! If it’s been ages since you took a proper vacation, ease into things: take a work day off, and something “vacationy” with it (spa day, linger at a restaurant, shop when the stores are quiet, take a day trip). It may feel uncomfortable, it may seem impossible, but by NOT doing it, you’re putting your job longevity in jeopardy.