I didn’t have the opportunity to take a vacation this year.
For some reason, the stars never aligned to help that happen. A few things contributed to the situation. I have a new role (along with my other commitments), and we are also renovating an older home. As you might expect, our resources have been diverted to goals such as staircases and a functional HVAC system. Then, in a last ditch effort, we just couldn’t agree on when and where to go.
“Re-charging” just was not in the cards.
The outcome of my neglect feels quite real. A little like pulling an all-nighter — with absolutely no desire to sit for the exam.
This is not a “good thing” — as Martha would say.
The research has shown that many of us fail to take time off, even when we have earned the vacation days to do so. For some odd reason, we don’t like to admit that time off is necessary — or we fear we’ll look weak — or uncommitted to our work. This lack of attention to rest is costly in so many ways. I can only say, that if I’m representative of what it is like to not have a break, no one should skimp.
Sustaining “us” — is in part our own responsibility. We shouldn’t need to be reminded that we are important.
Here’s what has happened:
I’m observing signs of burn-out. Yes, I lack my usual level of enthusiasm for the tasks I normally love. I’ve coached myself to care, as the “Joy Factor” has taken a dip. That’s a sad commentary.
I’m losing my sense of humor, especially where work is concerned. I don’t laugh nearly enough — and laughing is vastly under-rated. We need these moments to off-set stress.
I’m a bit of a pain in the a##. I’m sure it has to do with the above. No further explanation needed. Sorry for the language.
Inspiration is waning. I require new sources of stimulation to stay at the top of my game. A change of scenery always does great things for me. We really shouldn’t expect to be at our best, after completing a year-long mental marathon.
I’m starting to fantasize about a new line of work. Now, this is simply ridiculous. However, I can easily see why many of us take these feelings as a sign that our roles are the problem. It’s not.
Here is what I’m doing:
I’m exploring my local environment. I’m unchaining myself from my desk and getting out there (cell phone muted). I’m stopping by the Farmer’s Market, and checking out the museums and gardens. Inspiration is really all around us.
I’m aiming to meet more people face-to-face. I’m completely inspired by the career journeys of others. I’m making a point to visit college campuses this fall, to talk to students about their future work lives. (let me know if you’d like me to visit yours.)
I’m taking a series of shorter weekend trips. Nothing works like the real deal. Michigan is beautiful in the fall and I’m determined to see it.
I’m telling founders, managers and leaders to take their vacations (and to let everyone know). Nothing cements a needed change more completely, than a strong message that time off is a respected practice.
What are your strategies to take a break when vacations are impossible to schedule? Share your thoughts.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist, consultant and coach. She holds the role of Senior Consultant at Allied Talent, bringing the principles of The Alliance to organizations worldwide.
At times, we’ve all lost our way — and finding our way back to the right path is imperative. This process can prove both confusing and painful. Often, we believe that the root problem lies externally; the wrong boss, team or organization. But, are we overlooking the obvious? In fact, looking inward might just be the best place to begin. Truth be told, we put enough obstacles in our own career paths to last more than a lifetime. When it comes down to it — we are usually right there in the mix, adding to the fog.
What if you could find that vital guidance, that mantra of direction, to actually get out of your own way once and for all? Well, developing a life strategy may be the needed prescription. It’s not fluff — it’s just plain smart.
We assume we’ll traverse through our careers (and our lives for that matter) without taking a single moment of pause to formulate a plan. (An organization wouldn’t think of moving forward without first considering a clear-cut path.) Strategy, can allow us to focus on our goals. Because at the inflection points that challenge us, we often forget to stop, breathe and look in all directions.
A great read to find that needed path is Allison Rimm’s, The Joy Of Strategy. (Her concept of the “Joy Meter” is a stunner, and that alone is worth the read. Apply the meter to your work life — and you will never view work or career, in quite the same way.)
A few things The Joy of Strategy would also like us to consider:
Listening more. Not to everyone else — to yourself. Stop shopping for the advice that would allow you to support what you already know you need from your work life. Trust that inner voice. What have you left behind? As Rimm describes so aptly, “Don’t die with your song still inside of you.”
Taking another look at purpose. We can easily confuse being busy with purpose — and defining a “clear intention” can help to filter out the “noise” surrounding our most important career decisions. When I began blogging two years ago, a colleague was less than enthused with my career pivot. This caused me real stress. But, when all was said and done — the path fulfilled my purpose to help others gain fulfillment in the workplace.
Visualize, visualize, visualize. Where do you really want to be? What would you be doing? What do you really want to accomplish? One solid strategy for change, is to thoroughly consider the “future state”. Go there — dream a little — it will help you master your future.
Defining what you really need. Be brutally honest. If you could move forward to build your best career life, what materials would you collect to ensure your success? A trusted mentor? More opportunities to lead a team? Sharper communication skills? Take the time to define these.
Time and Emotion. We spend our time — but what do those moments really offer us? As Rimm explains, “We should all derive some measure of joy from our work.” I couldn’t agree more. That indeed, is a winning strategy.
How have you built your own life strategy? Tell us a little about that here.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist. She also writes at LinkedIn.
In response to a post about positivity in the workplace, a very kind reader (Casper P.) let me know that in his language, a very unique word existed. The word was “Arbejdsglæde” — translated into English this means “happiness at work” or “work joy”. Here is his comment:
If only we could only bring more Arbejdsglæde into our work lives on a daily basis. Arbejdsglæde is the positive feeling that develops when you simply love what you do. It stokes motivation and serves as an reliable source of energy. In turn, the work brings a keen sense of satisfaction. Of course, this is something we should all readily seek — and a bit of joy may be exactly what we need to affect the troubling lack of engagement in the workplace today. More joy at work? As a psychologist, that is something that I can certainly live with.
Ultimately, joy and work should co-exist — but we have been resistant to offer ourselves permission to seek this out. In her HBR post Joy at Work: It’s Your Right, Allison Rimm describes how she has utilized a joy meter in her coaching practice. When clients would enter for a session, they would rate the level of joy (vs. hassle) they were currently feeling from their work. The underlying premise? We all should derive some measure of joy from our work.
We might encourage joy at work through the expression of gratitude, developing hope and encouraging camaraderie. But we can also grow joy, by aligning our work with our strengths — and learning to express what we really need to derive satisfaction from our work.
So, let’s bring a more joy to our workplaces — ourselves, our clients and our colleagues.
You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with. – Jim Rohn
I’ve heard Jim Rohn’s incredibly insightful quote on a number of occasions.
Every time I hear it I pause — as the message is simply that powerful. Those we surround ourselves with could easily be viewed as a critical life choice, as we absorb the moods, problems and the passions of those around us.
Instinctively, we might first apply this concept to our personal lives — quickly completing a review of our inner circle of friends and family. But really we should also applying this mantra to our work lives. The same standard holds there. Those we surround ourselves with can affect our work lives tremendously, for the better or for the worse.
I began to apply the “Fab 5” to specific work goals. (For example, finding the right guide to become a better speaker). However, this seemed far too limiting.
These 5 individuals should have robust relevance to all aspects of our work lives — a group of key people to serve as a “catalyst”, encouraging both exploration and excellence.
As such, the lineup should afford a broader application of the principle.
Here are my recommendations for the “Fab 5”:
A mentor. An individual with whom you feel entirely comfortable. They should have a working knowledge of your “dream” career direction or path. Trust is paramount and being candid is required.
A sponsor. This individual knows how to help you position yourself to facilitate needed career progress. They’ll help you consider options such as a “stretch assignment” or a strategically placed team role. They are masters at “career marketing” and will push your career boundaries.
A collaborator. We all need a “co-conspirator” who allows you to free-associate and helps you explore ideas. They are likely to be quite creative and open, and not overly critical.
A devils’ advocate. This role should be filled by someone who can “cut to the chase” and expose any weaknesses in your career logic. They help you to reveal obstacles and keep things “real.”
An entrepreneur. Somehow you just can’t replicate the mindset of an entrepreneur. They are the whole package. Quick. Creative. Above all, gutsy. They won’t let you sit on the sidelines of your work life for very long.
Don’t limit your “Fab 5” to those you can physically spend time with — connecting online works as well. Look to channels such as LinkedIn or Twitter as potential sources to fill these roles. (Those we connect with virtually can still have the power to change our perspective and drive us forward).
Would you benefit from a “Fab 5” in your work life? Who would you include?
Have you ever heard of the “criticism sandwich”? This communication strategy purports that if you present negative information in the midst of positive information, it will cushion the impact of the “less than stellar” bits. Well – think again. Our brains seem to be hard-wired to pay much closer to attention to negative information – likely a product of evolution and the “survival of the fittest”. When we hear negative information, it carries more impact and seems to stick with us longer.
In my latest post on LinkedIn, How to hear what you don’t want to hear, I explore methods to cope with negative information, opinion or feedback. Managing the stress that comes with the territory is key. But take heart – you are not alone.
Do you have a strategy to cope with negative information that works for you? Please share it with us – we’ll all be grateful.
Dr. Marla Gottschalk is a Workplace Psychologist. Connect with her and continue the conversation on Twitter and Linkedin.
We all share responsibility to forge a better workplace. As managers. As employees. As organizations. Even as customers of those organizations. How should we come together to mold a better workplace? This goal might boil down to our personal work life basics.
Some ideas to consider:
Become more transparent. Honesty is a basic – and its value holds in all facets of the workplace. In a nutshell, tell the truth. If you are a recruiter, let the candidate know everything you know about a role, both good and bad. If you are giving a performance review, tell the whole story. (Don’t skim over the weaknesses that will hold someone back in the future). If you are a customer, don’t walk away upset. Diplomatically express your problem – it is worth mustering the courage to do so.
Sharpen your listening skills. Make it a point to lessen the signal noise, and really listen to your employees and your customers. Separate yourself from the potential stress you feel this may bring – or worse yet, the fear of the change that may follow. Progress starts with an open mind – and an open mind develops when you truly hear the concerns of others.
Become hopeful. Remaining optimistic, and maintaining energy levels when things are challenging is a difficult task – but one that is worthwhile. Make every attempt not to give up on an employee, co-worker, a project or yourself. If there is an issue – trouble-shoot and attempt to devise a plan to impact the situation. Not the solution? Step back, reflect and formulate another route. Develop the frame of mind that one more try may hold the ultimate key.