There are three types of people I’d like to speak to in this article – the graduate entering the real world, the seasoned workaholic, and the budding entrepreneur. Let me first disclaim for credibility’s sake that I can empathize with all three of you. I worked ridiculous hours in public accounting during my 20s. I’ve been in the corporate world for ten years, next to complete workaholics. And I was raised by sleepless entrepreneurial parents. While most of us start out with the best intentions at hand, somewhere along the line our work style begins to change. We become stressed, possibly a bit depressed, and we find ourselves saying, “All I ever do is work. When can I get a vacation?”
I attribute one single cause that gets people to this point of stress: Fear. You see, stress is not the product of your physical work. Rather, it’s a reflection of your confidence level in actually doing the work. If we think to the three types of people I reference above, fear sets in for different reasons. My goal for each of you is to identify the cause of your fear. This way you can figure out how to better manage your workload and take that vacation you deserve.
So for the recent graduate: You scored your first professional job and are ready to take on the world. Your immediate response to your new boss is always, “Yes! Of course!” You produce quality work, and then you’re given more. As this circle begins, you become more and more eager to please, and with that come more assignments. Your sole focus is now your boss. And eventually, you find yourself working at night, on weekends, or during holidays to climb that corporate ladder in record-breaking times. Because that’s what defines your success, right?
My advice to you is this: Your managers know first-hand you’re incapable of doing everything, but as long as you keep giving, then shoot, they’ll keep taking. So do not be afraid to talk openly with them. If you want to take a vacation that is perfectly fine, that’s why companies give vacation days. Casually chat with your manager about some new spots you’d love to visit one weekend. Then, recap your work status and offer up a week in the near-future that you’d really like to take time off to visit these spots. The more chill and matter-of-fact you are in your approach to this, the easier it will be received.
Dearest workaholic: I’m willing to bet you’re extremely detail-oriented. Success in your mind is defined as crossing every T, dotting every I, and never messing up. This obviously requires you to work unusually long hours. You hold yourself to this high expectation and feel that it’s perfectly reasonable to hold others to the same expectation as well. You haven’t taken a vacation in years. In fact, your family probably doesn’t even expect much from you anymore.
My advice to you is this: Stop what you’re doing for a moment and make a list of everything you’ve done this week. Literally, everything. For each item, answer this question with a Yes/No: “Did my boss directly ask for this?” For those you’re on the fence about, or answered No to, answer Yes/No to this question, “Do I think my team needs this even though they didn’t ask?” Grouping your Yes/No's together now allows you to prioritize your tasks. So when you do step away to vacation with your family, you know precisely who is and who isn’t missing out on your piles of work.
Dear budding entrepreneur: I am so excited for you, I really am. You came up with this amazing idea and are ready to execute your dream. You will do anything it takes to make it work. I can imagine your excitement, and I can also imagine a slight guilt as more and more time pulls you away from your family and friends.
My advice to you is this: Try incorporating your family into your venture. My dad worked countless hours building his business. Oddly enough I don’t really remember him ever being away. Instead, I remember stuffing marketing envelopes for him and being part of the excitement. Give this a try with your family and see how it works. My other tip is to pencil vacation into your calendar ahead of time. This way, you know how to prioritize your work. In the middle of scoring new clients? They’re human too. Giving them a heads up that you’ll be out of pocket on a certain block of days will only earn you respect (and might just seal your deal faster!).
To sum it all up: Communication with your manager, team, and clients is key. Reduce unnecessary work by talking to them to make sure you’re delivering what they want, not what you think they want. Plan your vacations out ahead of time. This gives you the motivation you need to prioritize your work. And remember this, the real hero is already on vacation because he or she figured out a faster way to get things done.
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