Take A Vacation: It’s Time To Recharge Your Batteries
Taking a vacation is good for you, its good for your family and it turns out its good for your organization!
Here’s what we at ThirdPath have learned about the importance of vacation time over the past 15 plus years of advocating for doing work and family differently. You can also listen to our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar where we discussed this topic by clicking on the SoundCloud player.
However – some of us might need to challenge a few work norms to make this happen: the fear of being perceived as an under performer; the pressure to see it as a win-lose proposition – either we meet our client and customer needs or our own personal needs; or the worry that maybe there’s no point to take a week off given the demands to be available while away and the difficulty transitioning back upon return.
But there’s a lot to gain when we push back at these norms.
– Time off can have several health benefits like reducing risk of heart disease, stress and depression.
– Seeing new places and experiencing different things can have a positive effect on our overall outlook on life, providing a fresh and new perspective.
– Time away from work can also help us remember that work is just one part of who we are and remind us that we have friends, family and other life interests.
Here’s a list of ideas to help increase the enjoyment of your time away and maximize the benefits upon your return. For the full list, click here.
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- Plan vacations around the “seasonality” of your work. Try scheduling longer trips for less busy periods of work and “long weekend vacations” when work is busier.
- Block off pre and post “quiet” work days. Avoid scheduling meetings and phone calls the day before you leave and the day you return to allow for the “unexpected” and for catch up time when you return.
- Create a “what can wait” list. A week before you go, create a list of things that you can wait to get done after vacation, versus tasks that must be completed before you go.
- Decide how “connected” you want to be. If you need to check email or voice messages, plan ahead around what’s least disruptive.
- Carefully define emergencies. Think ahead about what challenges could arise. Clearly define emergencies to avoid everything becoming one.
- Keep track of what worked well. Create a list you can refer back to of helpful ideas for planning your next vacation.
And don’t forget, creating vacations that really recharge our batteries may also require us to change how we approach vacations as a family. Two parents working together as a team to plan and make the most of a vacation, makes it a better experience for everyone. (And while you’re at it, don’t forget to plan a romantic getaway for just the two of you!)
Pauses Increase Happiness and Effectiveness
Are you feeling the need for a pause in your life? Luckily, there is a good deal of evidence that shows taking a pause helps us to live happier lives AND become more effective at work.
As Joe Robinson, author of Don’t Miss Your Life, points out… “Satisfying work and a well-lived life are the result of thinking, assessing, and having the attention to create a better pathway forward. Something no one else can do for us. What you want doesn’t happen on its own. You have to make it happen.”
Following are 8 different beneficial pauses, big and small, that Robinson suggests we start implementing in our lives today…
1. Big Picture Pause.
Set aside a chunk of time, say, 30 minutes this week and then once a month, to think about where you’re going at work and life this year and why you’re going there. What are your work goals? Life priorities? What’s missing from the picture? What do you need to change? How can you do that?
2. Work Effectiveness Pause.
Review tasks and identify ones that are frequent bottlenecks and time-wasters. How could they be adjusted for less stress and more effectiveness?
3. Priorities Pause.
Set aside 10 minutes at the end of the workday or at the beginning to map out the top five tasks on your list for today or tomorrow.
4. Balance Pause.
Each Friday, take a few minutes to assess the state of your work-life balance. Are you out of whack? What needs to happen to have a better work-life fit?
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5. Recharge Pauses.
Fatigued brains look like ones that are sound asleep. Pause when the pressure peaks, you’re stuck, concentration fades, the daydreaming begins. Take a walk, listen to music, or plan your weekend to build up energy and cognitive resources again.
6. Free Time Pause.
Take time to put together a free-time log for a week of all your time outside work. Where are the time sinks? Where are the free-time slots you could schedule a new hobby or activity? What would you like to do? Salsa dancing? Cycling?
7. Vacation Pause.
Figure out at the beginning of the year where you want to go on vacation and when you want to go. This makes it easier for coworkers and managers and locks them and you into making the holiday happen at the most opportune time, with plenty of notice to make workflow adjustments.
8. Life List Pause.
Take some time to think about what you’d like to do on this planet for the experience of it. What’s on your Life List? Sail the South Seas? Learn guitar? Keep a rotating list of five experiences and start jotting down steps to make them happen.
To hear more about taking a break, check out our “Finding Your Sweet Spot” webinar where we talked with Christine Carter, happiness expert at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, about her book, The Sweet Spot, How to Accomplish More by Doing Less. In it she draws on the latest scientific research on positivity, productivity, and performance to demonstrate that by doing less we can actually accomplish more.
Want to learn how to implement these pauses and create a better balance between work, love and play? Join our OMG! – Overwhelm Mitigation Group – starting this fall.
Email us at: Time4Life(at)ThirdPath.org. Put “OMG!” in the subject heading and we’ll send you more information.
A Guest Blog by Scott Behson
“I worry that unless my generation of busy involved dads don’t start making change happen, company cultures will remain unchallenged, and more and more dads will have to struggle seemingly alone.” – Scott Behson
Dads, do you relate? As we wait for politics and organizations to catch up with the needs of dads in the workplace, Scott Behson recommends taking matters into your own hands.
Below is an excerpt from a blog post Scott wrote describing the steps you can take to help change our work cultures to recognize dads as actively involved parents. Or listen to our Thursdays with ThirdPath webinar by clicking the SoundCloud icon, and hear two dads talk about the changes they made – at work and home – to play a more prominent role in their children’s lives.
Be the Change You Wish to See
If you have the security, flexibility, courage and inclination (I recognize some may have more ability to do this at work than others), here are a few steps we can take in our workplaces to make it easier for dads to discuss and address work-family demands at our workplaces.
- Talk about your family and ask other men about theirs
- Make sure other men in your workplace see you use work flexibility for family reasons
- Take paternity leave
- Start a Beer Fire! Organize a group of male friends or coworkers to discuss life outside of work
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If you are excited by these ideas, here are some ways you can start integrating your life outside of work into the workplace right now. Each idea is a small but important way we as men can make it easier to discuss our lives as dads at work – and taking these steps will have a big postitive impact for both men and women!
• Keep pictures of your kids/family not just in a small frame facing you on the desk, but in a prominent place at your workstation (an 8×10 on the wall behind you may be ideal)
• During “water cooler” chit-chat with other men, don’t just talk about the latest sports gossip, tell them what you did with your kids last weekend, or discuss their little league games (or whatever)
• Ask other men in your workplace about their non-work life, including their families. Encourage them to share their family activities – like what they did with the kids on vacation, etc.
You can integrate these tips at the beginning of meetings you run or if you are a supervisor and can generate these conversations with men who report to you, that’s even better!
Many dads struggle with work-family issues but, because they do not see other men talking about these issues, many feel like they struggle alone. By putting these suggestions into action, you make it more normal for men in your workplace to discuss family issues, and to bring some of our non-work lives into workplace discussions. These small but important steps also lay the groundwork for making big changes around creating more supportive workplaces for all.
Scott Behson, PhD, is a Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and author of Working Dads Survival Guide. Scott lives in Nyack, NY with his wife, Amy, and son, Nick. Contact him on Twitter (@ScottBehson), Facebook, LinkedIn or email.
Lets Get Happy
As couples move throughout their lives, new opportunities arise alongside new challenges. Dr. Sara Yogev, author of “A Couple’s Guide to Happy Retirement and Aging,” helps us understand that building a team at home early in our relationships will help with transitions now AND later in life.
According to Dr. Yogev, couples often neglect communicating about their needs and expectations through large transitions, but being aware of how change impacts the marital dynamic is huge. To keep a handle on big changes, Dr. Yogev recommends “both spouses to take time to think about what he or she wants, exchange this information, try to help each other with these goals and be willing to compromise.”
Following are 10 ideas Dr. Yogev recommends for navigating a happier retirement – many are great tips that couples could practice at any age! Or listen to Dr. Yogev share even more insights by clicking the SoundCloud link to the right.
- Share expectations – Take time to talk about what you both are expecting.
- Address your relationship with money – Get a sense of your “money style.” Are you a spender or saver? Doing this helps you develop a common financial plan even if your styles are different.
- Prepare for mixed feelings – With every big transition, it’s good to remember there will be some things we like, and some things we find more challenging.
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- Address issues as they surface – When problems arise, avoid the temptation to sweep things under the rug.
- Custom design your days, weeks, months – Use a calendar to make sure both of your needs are being met and don’t over schedule.
- Celebrate your body – Getting into a routine of exercise and eating right is something that will benefit you across the life cycle.
- Celebrate your sexuality – Just like creating healthy routines around exercise and eating, couples also benefit from investing in their connection to each other.
- Retirement inherently requires us to “say good-bye to work.” However, Yogev encourages couples to try working shorter days, or shorter weeks as a way to transition into this change – something Shared Care parents have likely already had lots of experience with!
- Give each other physical and emotional space – Not having set work schedules that keep you apart, retirement requires becoming more intentional about the time you want to spend together and the time you need for your own interests.
- Stay mentally active – There are many ways to stay active in life. Support each other to find new and engaging interests.
Whether phasing into retirement, or balancing work and family, this list reminds us that couples will gain a lifetime of benefits by taking steps to work as a team to meet their own needs and their needs as a couple.
Want to learn more? Why not take a look at our ‘Get Started’ resources page for families and send for ThirdPath’s Work Family Options Workbook.
Are we willing to trade profit for greater life satisfaction?
What you might not have considered is that the approach these leaders are modeling is linked to new kind of bottom line.
Instead of building organizations that rely on extreme performance goals in order to meet inflated bottom lines, these leaders are promoting a very different path. They teach us “enough is enough” by putting an end to excessive work hours, and instead encouraging employees to be successful at work AND have time for their lives outside of work.
Attorney Anthony Doniger, a Partner at Sugarman Rogers, and past president of the Boston Bar Association, has many wise words to share on this topic. To listen to the wonderful discussion we had with Tony and two other leaders – both who founded their own law firms – click the SoundCloud icon on the right.
You can also read on for an inspirational excerpt from an article Tony wrote for the Boston Bar Journal, “A Different Measure of Success.“
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A good deal has been written about contentment, stress, dissatisfaction and disillusion in the legal profession [and other professions as well, ThirdPath would argue!]. For better or for worse, many lawyers and most large and mid-size law firms often measure their success not on a happiness or contentment index but against a monetary standard. Earnings — or “profit per partner” — is the currency with which firms compete for rankings on the all important The American Lawyer charts.
To improve these monetary rankings firms do things that are harmful to the profession and bad for lawyers.
One way to increase profit per partner is to limit the number of partners who count in the equation. However, with fewer people making partner, it is of course harder for diversity milestones to be achieved as there are fewer openings in the partnership ranks for anyone. On the revenue side, the pursuit of ever increasing revenues by definition imposes greater pressures on associates (and all lawyers). The result, of course, is that lawyers have less time for professional and other non-billable activities.
In addition, mergers and acquisitions have increased markedly over the last decade. The cost of these transitional events is not insignificant. Indeed, at the annual Boston Bar Association Leadership Retreat, a large percentage of the attorneys present had personally experienced such an event, finding it stressful and resulting in a solution that was less optimal from the perspective of contentment, though perhaps more profitable.
In the end, we need to ask when enough is enough.
Should we be willing to trade some profit or growth in profit for greater satisfaction? Surely it is okay to make a little less next year (or not make more) and take on some new professional or pro bono activities, or yes, even personal activities (there’s nothing wrong with hiking the Appalachian Trail).
There is much we can do to improve our professional and personal lives, our pro bono and bar work, our efforts to improve access to justice, if only we would emphasize alternative measures of success.
This employee-centered approach achieves success across industries. Chief executive Jim Sinegal, retired from Costco in 2012, was another pioneer around this approach. Read Jim’s thoughts “On Leadership,” in the Washington Post.