Archive for the ‘Work-Life Balance’ Category

Early tomorrow morning my wife, my dog and I will get on the road about 6:00 a.m. to head to Folly Beach, South Carolina to spend a few days with our oldest son, Brian, at his hotel Tides.  True vacations are rare for us, even those of a few days.

As an online community manager, taking time off even while away on a supposed vacation is even rarer.  I can’t count the days I’ve still spent too much time online checking on those communities when I should be vacationing.  Will someone need me for something?  Will inappropriate posts get plastered all over the wall that should be addressed or removed quickly?  Will customer service issues arise that need attention?

Any community manager knows that the role isn’t a Monday-Friday 9-5 gig.  To some extent, it’s 24/7.  But I’m ready for a break as is my fellow community manager on our team who will be vacationing the same days.

Will I sneak a peek every now and then while we’re gone?  Yes.  Do I intend to spend a lot of time working?  No.  I get to see my son once or twice a year.  The online communities will be there next week.  I may not see my son again for a year.  It’s obvious which is most important.

Leap year lesson #325 is Yes, it’s possible to leave work behind.

image from zazzle.com

Today is the way a Saturday should be.  Except for not knowing if a repairman would show up this morning to do what was scheduled for yesterday, this has been a day to relax.

Once up, I decided to set a goal to finish a book today that I started and abandoned a number of months ago.  It’s the book Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman.  A couple of coworkers and I decided to read it together earlier this summer and discuss it over lunch.  We met a couple of times but never finished, so today is a good day to do my part and complete it before we get together again.  I’m sure I’ll summarize what I get from the book in at least one more post here.

So the day has been one of reading a chapter, then catching up on emails or social media, reading another chapter, running an errand, reading another chapter, playing with the dog…you get the picture.  With a nice cup of hot chocolate or tea on one side, my dog on the other and my book in hand, I can’t imagine a more perfect day.

Anyone who has read many of these posts this year will know that I tend to put too much into my calendar, sometimes to a very unhealthy degree.  That is frustrating and potentially harmful.  So after about half a day of a very different pace with unusually light expectations for a weekend, I come to leap year lesson #320: I’ve seen hectic and I’ve seen relaxing.  Relaxing is better.

As I have shared in this blog before, I love my work.  It is a pleasure to do what I do for a company I respect with incredible colleagues who make each day fun and worthwhile.  I am fortunate, indeed, to be in this situation with important responsibilities for a Fortune 100 company’s internal and external social media.  I do not take it for granted.  There are days when I walk away from work toward my car and just shake my head in disbelief that I have this opportunity.

That is why days like last Friday and today are somewhat difficult for me.  Last Friday I scheduled a day off to stay home and do other things.  I started working, though, early in the morning and spent all morning and afternoon doing work that needed to be done, so it turned out to be a full day of work – just one done from home instead of the office.

Today I tried again and was far more successful at not allowing myself much time to work.  Yes, I sneaked a quick peak here and there at email and our internal social network and work-related Twitter, but for little more than an hour’s worth for the day, so I consider that a success.  I slept late, caught up on personal emails, watched the presidential news conference, spent nearly an hour trying to get a screen protector on my new smartphone (why don’t they come with protectors on them?), and spent time with my dog.  I ate a decent lunch and will take my dog for a nice walk shortly.

We all know that we need time away from work.  Given my love for what I do, however, it doesn’t seem much like work to me.  It’s fun.  It’s the kind of thing where I can plop in my recliner with my feet up and TV on and do until the wee hours of the morning. Depending on your satisfaction with your work, your experience may be very different than mine.

I am grateful for days like today where I have the option to do other things.  Still, for me at least, leap year lesson #316 is Not working is hard.

Wednesday is frequently referred to as hump day because it gets you over the hump in the work week.  Instead of work today, though, I decided to take the day (mostly) off to rest and do as I pleased.

After taking care of the dog early, I went back to bed for much of the morning until two phone calls awakened me for good.  I read and studied a little on personal matters of interest and will do a little more tonight.  I enjoyed the comfort food of Linda’s cherry cheesecake she made yesterday.  I thought about getting that phone upgrade I’m planning, but decided doing so would then force me to spend the rest of the day with the technical hassle of switching phones, installing apps, updating contacts, entering data, etc. – not exactly the day of rest I envisioned, so that will have to wait for another day.  I still chose to work about three hours off and on.

The only thing not under my control is having to answer the door tonight and hand out candy to the neighborhood kids who come by for Halloween.  I could be the grumpy old man on the block and not do it or just put a basket of candy out trusting that the first few won’t take it all, but I need to be more neighborly than that.

If the purpose of a hump day is to help you feel like you’re almost there, like it’s all downhill from here to the end of the work week, then I can think of no better way to re-energize than to just take some time off, to rest, and to do as you please in the middle of the week.  Long weekends are always good, of course, but breaking up the work week into two two-day periods is a pretty good solution as well.  I’ll keep that in mind as I look to use up a lot of vacation days accrued.

It was a good day of rest.  I hope your day was good as well.

Leap year lesson #303 is A mid-week day of rest may hit the spot.

Throughout the past 9+ years with my current employer, I have rarely taken a real vacation – one in the sense of getting away from it all for any extended period.  I almost always end up giving in to the temptation to check email and voice mail and have frequently spent up to half of my planned days off working.  I know I shouldn’t, but that’s been my pattern more often than not.  I can’t stand coming back to huge backlogs of work or to unpleasant surprises.

I am glad to report that I did not succumb to that temptation in my time off last week.  While I had to have some basic communication with my teammates on a couple of matters, I did not get sucked into reading other emails or any the 6,000 messages posted on the internal social network I manage.  Over the nine days off, I worked a total of about eight hours, but a chunk of that was catching up on some online reading I’ve had on the back burner for a long time.

Going in to work today, I was anxious to see what had accumulated.  The verdict?  257 emails plus 28 notifications on our social network.  Fortunately, I had no meetings today, so I was able to knock stuff out.  My goal was to work through and dispose of 100 emails, and I was able to finish off 200 of them plus the 28 social notifications – a wildly successful first day back.  With tomorrow filled mostly with meetings, the pace of clearing the backlog will slow considerably, but today’s success puts me in a good frame of mind for the remainder of the week.

Coming back after being away from work can be good and bad.  The good is that you’re back into the usual routine and, in my case, that’s doing something I love to do alongside some great people.  The bad is that the backlog can seem overwhelming.  With the backlog now manageable, the bad isn’t bad at all.

Of course, I’m not so sure what I think about the realization that things seemed to go just fine without me.  Hmmmm….

Regardless, leap year lesson #260 is Work will go on without you.