No matter how important you think you are, you can take three weeks off. Period.
I can just see you rolling your eyes.
How about this? You owe it to yourself and your family.
But do you want to take time off? That’s the real question.
Stick with me here. See if any of this sounds familiar. When you think work is all about you, the following excuses are part of your thought pattern:
“I can’t take time off right now.”
“We are short-staffed and I can’t afford to take off until we have at least this position filled.”
“I need to get this project completed before …”
Yes, your presence is desired. Yes, your leadership is necessary. And yes, it would be great if you would finish something before taking off. And yet your ego is talking and drowning out what is most important to you. Time and again I hear excuses such as these about why executives like you aren’t taking time off. Yet, if you had a major accident and couldn’t work for a while, everyone else would step up and progress would be made — without you. And that’s where the real problem is. If work can handle being without you then maybe work doesn’t need you as much as you think or hope and maybe your position is in jeopardy.
Taking some time off doesn’t mean you are not needed and that everything will run smoothly without you. You are simply directing time to something else that matters to you. Time is limited. It is without a doubt your most precious resource. Unless you take time away from work, you are identified by your work.
That is backwards. Define who you are first and then fill in the rest of your time with work where you are making a meaningful contribution. I find that senior leaders are prone to getting this wrong. They have worked hard to get to the level they are and they feel in order to stay at this level and not slip backwards they have to hold on for dear life. They have to control and not let go. Are you that person? Are you making the workplace all about you?
Six months ago I decided that I wanted to take three weeks off. I am not running a multi-million dollar company (by my own choice), but I do run my own business and no revenue is coming in unless I work. Yet I refuse to make work my identity or something I have to control at all times. Recently I decided to embark on an adventure that I have thought about for years: To hike 192 miles from the West Coast to the East Coast of the United Kingdom, the so-called Coast-2-Coast Trail through three National Parks. I have never done a long trek like this, but I decided to give it my best shot. From the moment I made the decision, my thinking changed and life wasn’t all about work anymore. It was about me and what I wanted and how I wanted to spend my time.
Now I want to challenge you to embark upon something meaningful to you. Something you have always wanted to do. Something that will charge your batteries. Something you will not regret having done, ever!
Ready to get serious? Here are eight crucial steps for taking time off to do something meaningful:
1) Define a Goal
People asked me why I wanted to hike 192 miles through England. Well, I used to live in the UK during the early years of my career and during that time I was all about work. Fourteen-hour days, traveling to three countries a week, being more familiar with hotel rooms and airplanes than my husband and my family. At that time the seed was planted. Someday I would hike from one coast to the other and actually see some part of the country that I never got to see during my corporate time. The goal was set.
2) Partner with Someone
Early this year I told my daughter that I was thinking about doing this trek. On a whim I asked her if she would be interested in joining me. Much to my surprise she immediately said yes and got all excited. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I got even more excited about doing it. I have marveled at long distance hikers in the past and I had watched the movies “Wild” and “TheWalk” and was fascinated with what a journey like this would hold. I would have continued with my plans even if it was just me, but having a partner meant I was immediately committed.
Having my daughter say yes meant I needed to commit fully. There were no more excuses. There was no turning back. We were going, no matter what. I had accountability.
4) Research How to
After creating the goal, I realized I didn’t know what I had gotten myself into. I started researching the logistics of mileage, the time commitment required, the physical fitness necessary, the finances, and the best way to do this. I started to feel more comfortable with the idea and it became doable in my mind.
5) Declare Your Stated Goal to Others
My research told me that to do it well I needed to take three weeks to accomplish my goal. Would it work with my business? Would my clients understand? Actually, everyone was supportive and encouraged me to move ahead. By talking to clients, friends and family, I wrapped my head around the challenge and motivated myself to meet my stated goal.
6) Plan and Practice Physically
I hit the point of no return. I made a declaration that backing out would mean defeat. It was time to prepare myself physically. I started hiking almost every day, sometimes twice. I kept track of how many steps and how many miles I logged every day. I started to run again and built up some stamina. Many times I considered remaining in bed, but I had this goal to reach, so I got up and hit the pavement. As I progressed, I got to the point where it felt uncomfortable not to be physically active. I couldn’t just sit still all day. I had to get out. Not a bad side effect, really.
7) Secure Necessary Resources
Next I had to investigate gear and other resources to accomplish my goal. Lodging and transportation issues needed to be sorted out. Hiking gear had to be assembled and broken in with plenty of time to spare. The route had to be mapped and clearly identified with B&B’s booked and transportation options outlined. Would we be able to use our cell phones? Would we need a GPS? And what kind of maps were the best? What about roaming fees and the value of the British pound? (The Brexit wound up making this trip even more reasonable).
8) Prepare Mentally
All the other preparations were done, but was I mentally ready? Hard to tell, since I’ve never done a hike like this before. I felt like I had a plan and a backup plan. I had crossed the t’s and dotted the i’s. I felt well prepared to deal with whatever challenges presented themselves along the way. Now I am looking forward to the journey, away from work and responsibility. At one with nature and the elements. Alone with my thoughts and in conversation with my daughter.
What precious time. I can’t wait. This is the work I want to engage in. The work that is meaningful to me. I am looking forward to being in the present moment along this three-week journey. What about you? What challenge is meaningful to you? What would be worth taking time off for? What would take you on a journey of a lifetime?
Don’t roll your eyes at the thought. Just get planning. If you found this article useful and inspiring, feel free to check out the article about the actual journey on the C2C and how to succeed in the transition back.