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3 Lessons From A Vacation That Helped Balance Work/Life.

Have you ever taken a vacation day, or week, and worked some of it when you were supposed to be with family or friends? If so, whether you are employed by another or are self employed, I hope my personal experience gives you something to think about with summer approaching.

Per, vacation is defined as “a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel.” Yet I recently read a LinkedIn posting that stated Americans forfeited over “705 million vacation days last year” and they are taking less vacation than people 30 years ago.

Why? The article cited they “worry about how people [will] perceive them at work.” Yet what do your family and friends think when you don’t take time off to spend with them? And when you do take time off, are you constantly checking work emails, texts, and voicemails?

Allow me to share a valuable lesson I learned with my own family during a Spring Break vacation a few years ago:

My wife and I took our family to visit our hometown, so they could see where we grew up as well as do some local sightseeing. At the time, I was an executive responsible for overseeing a customer that was #1 in several product lines. Per Murphy’s Law, there was a major issue with them that started one month before our trip that was not resolved by the time our trip began.

Upon starting our vacation, I did not count how many times I pulled my phone out to check it. My wife did count though. When we got back to the hotel the first day she said, “Please hand me your phone.” I asked, “Why?” She said, “I will tell you once you give it to me.” I gave her my phone, and then learned a very valuable lesson about work/life balance!

To my recollection, she said, “You pulled out your phone 16 times today. This is supposed to be family time. You travel over 100,000 miles per year on planes and live in hotels while we are at home. What about us? When do we get your attention?” Then, very passionately, she uttered, “We need you to be 100% PRESENT, not just physically present!”

Then came the negotiation to get my phone back. We settled that between 7pm & 8pm on Tuesday and Thursday and daily before 7:30am I could check emails and voicemails, yet beyond that, she would keep my phone. As I never changed my voicemail or “Out-of-Office” messages, I proceeded to change them (and still do). I advised that I was on vacation with my family with limited access to voicemail and email and directed them to contact my Admin if there was an urgent matter. I then kept my promise to my family.

What did I discover?

The sun still rose and set daily. My company and job were still there. My contact at our #1 customer asked if we had a good time and told me about his upcoming family vacation plans. Yet the best part was that priceless memories with my family were created, all because I blocked work out and focused on them.

In the process, I learned 3 valuable lessons:

  1. If you work on a vacation day…it is not a vacation day!

  2. We get so wrapped up in what people at the office may think about us when we take time off, we forget how our loved ones are counting on us to do it!

  3. The “limited access to voicemail and email” message works great. People will wait or find another person to help if needed.

The best thing you can do for those who matter most to you when you take vacation this summer, or when you are at your child’s ball game, or dance recital, or at the beach, or with friends, is to BE PRESENT!

Bettering you outside of work is fundamental in creating a more focused and creative you IN the office.

John R. Jell | President of JELL Training & Consulting

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