How to Get Time Off
Taking time off is not a given in leadership. The project is ultimately yours. You are at the wheel of the mission. Your supervisors and your staff have high expectations for you, and you have high expectations for yourself.
And the work never stops. Phone calls, e-mails, or texts messages come at all hours. And emergencies seem to “emerge” at the least appropriate times.
That means you will have to be creative in taking time away from it all. Between project schedules, family priorities, and budget constraints, finding meaningful time for relaxation can be a challenge. Here are some suggestions:
Do your work
Does that sound like contradictory advice? It’s not. To take time off consistently, you’ll have to discipline yourself to work diligently.
Don’t waste time in the office puttering around. Get in and get after it. Avoid letting small tasks pile up so that they seem overwhelming. And keep consistent office hours.
When your people know that you are generally available, they’re tolerant of occasional absences. But those leaders who keep an erratic schedule may be seen as lazy. Be there when you are needed, and you can be most anywhere when you are not.
Write days off into your calendar
The highest written authority for many leaders is their calendar. Most of your colleagues will understand when you can’t make a meeting because of a schedule conflict. And usually they will feel even better about it to know that the “conflict” is an appointment to take your son fishing. Program days off into your calendar, then take them as faithfully as a multivitamin.
Master the half day
If you must burn the candle at both ends, leave room in the middle. When you have a full evening, take the morning or afternoon off. Give yourself a break, especially when evening meetings are stacked two or three days deep. Afternoons, when kids are in school, are the perfect time to pursue hobbies, read, or just relax by yourself.
Take holidays off
When the kids are out of school, you should be too. Often, leaders work at least half of every weekend. When Columbus Day, President’s Day, and other school holidays roll around, spend them with your family.
Find a hideout
Look for a place that you can go to be alone or with your family. Some generous friend may offer the use of a vacation home or condo. If an offer comes, accept gladly. Even if you don’t have an exotic retreat, you can still find a quiet park, a nearby campground, or a secluded bed and breakfast. Locate a place where you and your family can enjoy complete privacy occasionally. You need it, and so do they.
Learn to let some things go
Leadership is never truly finished. In order to enjoy some down time, you’ll have to live with the fact that some items remain on your to-do list. Give yourself permission to leave some tasks undone, at least overnight. Just for one day, ignore the flashing light on your Answering machine or cell phone. It will do you a world of good.
It takes discipline to relax. Few will ask whether you have enjoyed a weekend with your family recently, and most organizations will not force you to take your allotted vacation time. It is up to you to get the time off you deserve. Take it. You need it.
You are loved.