Vacations should only end after three things happen: 1) you feel rested, 2) you miss home, and 3) you actually want to get back to work. If those three things do not fall into place by the end of your sojourn, your vacation failed. That, or you 1) have health problems, 2) do not feel at home where you live or 3) hate the work you do. Vacations can help you distance yourself from your normal life enough to realize any one of these three issues and tackle problems accordingly.
Money isn’t everything. Time, knowledge, happiness, autonomy, geography and output are all currencies that can be measured and prioritized in different ways. When job hunting, you look at more than just the salary – how much time you’ll get to spend with your kids, how far away it is, how much you’ll be able to learn and grow, what autonomy you’ll have and what you’ll be able to build. Sometimes, money is the most important and necessary thing to you. Other times, you might be willing to make a salary sacrifice to learn something specific or work closer to a place you call home. What matters most to you now? How does that affect your decisions? I find it useful to rank the currencies that matter at this moment. Do you need time more than money now? Do you want social outings more than the number of books read? Do you want a job that constantly teaches you new things or do you want an easy commute? Write it all out. Prioritize your life and make important decisions accordingly.
While everyone may suggest that day jobs are the answer, they are not for everyone. Many of us were raised to think there’s no other way. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many legal and non-humiliating ways to make an income. You can consult, provide a service or build an empire of your own. Specialize, mix it up, split your time however you want. There are no rules (except perhaps the law).
If you find yourself in a day job, be careful not to get too consumed by it. When all you see everyday is your desk, it’s difficult to believe that there are other options out there. It’s difficult to remember that you made this choice and could have made others. It’s up to you to decide if a job is the right lifestyle choice for you. If you decide that it is, embrace the choice with confidence and be at peace.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by failure, errors, bugs, hurdles and drama. Rough patches and setbacks are never fun. You can either throw up your hands, whine and get beaten down by them – or you can look past and move forward. Focus operates hand-in-hand with success. If you keep your eye on the prize and ignore the rest, you can still cross the finish line in good time. Do what you can to put the stress, pain and drama aside for the time being. Go for a walk, eat a meal, take a nap – whatever it takes to cleanse, reset and get back on the horse. Man up, get the job done – and then complain.
All too often I find it difficult to thoroughly engage in entertainment, conversation or recreation if I jump in having left active tasks incomplete. You cannot always push plans back to make room for completing the task, but it can make a big difference in helping you enjoy yourself if you find extra time to get the job done. Better in most scenarios to show up late and fully connect with the moment than stick to the calendar with a head full of unsolved problems. Fight the habit of tardiness and never accept it as a personal trend, but forgive yourself if it means victory, understanding on the part of the people you keep waiting, and an untarnished engagement. After all, your original plans can double as a celebration if you complete the task at hand. Get it done and go have a good time.
Sometimes you’ve just gotta do it. If you aspire to work hard, make a difference and get the job done, it takes sacrifices. Not all the time, of course, because that’s not sustainable. But every once in a while, all-nighters, hundred-hour weeks and late Fridays do the trick. If you are able to crumple up your to-do list at the end of the night and call it an accomplished day, very little feels better. Crumpled paper, a glass of wine and a sigh of relief. That’s the stuff.
With that, I’m leaving the office. Fifteen hour day. Suck it.
Balance between input and output is key. Lately, consumption is easier than ever. Distractions run amuck. But the tools are easier than ever, too. Save for more distractions, you have no excuse to procrastinate your work and talent. If you’re not creating, you’re consuming. You’re not giving back to the world and people in it who give you so much. You’re living a selfish relationship with life. Good luck leaving a legacy. No thank you.
Write. Paint. Speak. Raise children. Build things. Get your hands dirty. Give back to the world and the people you care about. Make a difference. Don’t sit still. Don’t wait and watch. Don’t only take in – put out (no innuendo intended). Try not to concern yourself with turning your creation into your business – if you create well enough, the business will come. Focus on building great things and gifting them to all. It’s good for the soul (and can’t hurt your legacy).
It happens. Deal with it. Schedule time to catch up, prioritize or cut your losses. Don’t complain, don’t freak out. Get ‘er done and move on.
Most people don’t mention the third part. You need to be vigilant about rest if you’re going to maintain a work hard play hard lifestyle. All three forces need to balance out for you to sustain a productive, fruitful and healthy life. Let me say that again: keep work, play and rest in balance in your life. Bedtime is a magical thing if you observe it regularly. Scheduled playtime and vacations really wake you up. Don’t let work suck you away. Save an equal amount of time and energy to live the good life and recharge your batteries while still getting things done.
Every email I receive presumes to be imminently earth-shattering. Very annoying. Ninety-five percent of emails that hit my inbox are not urgent. I receive around 250 emails per business day – that’s one email every two minutes. It takes me forever to craft thoughtful replies, so I regularly fall behind in trying to keep up. To prevent this constant influx of faux peril from stressing me out, I am paying less and less attention to email these days. In the process, I’ve let a few important notes slip through the cracks. Oh well.
If it’s important or time sensitive, don’t just email me – call or approach me in person. I ignore my phone during meetings for everything except calls (it vibrates a dozen consecutive times when you ring me, so it’s difficult to ignore). Knock if you need to. If the issue at hand is complicated, follow up with details in writing so I have all necessary and accurate info in front of me to address the situation. If you can’t get ahold of me in person or by phone, put ‘URGENT’ in the subject line. Obviously, don’t do that if it’s not urgent.
To get real work done without distraction, I need to ignore my email for a sizable fraction of the day. You should, too. Constantly replying to emails means you’re working reactively instead of proactively. Unless you work in a call center, reactive work only contributes to the status quo of your organization. In a competitive industry, status quo work can be regressive and therefore deadly for a company. Don’t do it.
If I don’t write you back within a few hours (or days), why would you follow up with a second email? That’s silly. Your method failed the first time – why on earth would it succeed any better a second time?
If an email exchange we’re participating in turns critical, please cover all bases and follow up in person with everyone involved. Get our collective heads out of email and into real problem-solving mode. Hear the voices of others repeat back to you their understanding of the situation. Make sure everyone is on the same page – on paper and in dialogue. Then get real work done.