Each of us works hard. I doubt few of us wake up in the morning and consciously say, “Today I am going to do a sub-optimal job. Today I am going to take-up space, not make a difference, drain the energy from my peers and deliberately create a miserable workplace.” However, that is exactly what we can do when we fail to take a break, get away from the day-to-day and get caught up in the daily grind of our work.
The other day I was on an international flight and had the pleasure of sitting at the gate within earshot of the flight crew. The crew was among the most experienced crews I have flown with in a long time.
They were all talking about the diners they had had the night before and different aspects of the flight to come: the number of special meals, wheel chair passengers and the like. It all seemed rather business like and certainly reflected the crew’s experience. Their conversation also told of the degree to which they were ‘jaded’ by the experience. They were predicting what would happen, which situations they would face not in the sense of a team preparing to deliver outstanding service, but as individuals commiserating around what they would have to endure.
The crew’s discussion then turned on the members of the crew who were not there. The people they could not stand, their personal foibles, the ones they found obnoxious. This gossip continued into the boarding, taxi and take off process as people were thankful that their crew assignments kept them at different ends of the plane from the people they had just gossiped about.
Neither of these things is unique to flight crews as we all share our experiences and our opinions about customers and others. We all have bad days.
But this got me thinking. These are signs that this crew needed a break and some may need a long break. So how do you know its time to take a break?
Here are a few thoughts about when its time to take a break
- When every day, project, or experience starts to blend together and seem the same.
- When the answers you gave yesterday, last month or the last time around seem to work and you believe that they are good enough.
- When your focus, comments and attention turn to each other rather than the customer, the competition or the issues at hand.
- When it is more important to score points within the company than in the marketplace.
The type of break is based on the degree to which these conditions apply to your situation.
- If a weekend is not enough to reset your outlook and the feelings from one week carries over to the next, then its time for a vacation.
- If you feel you cannot take a vacation because your company will fail without you, then its time for a new job.
- If you feel you cannot take a new job, then perhaps its time for a change of company,
- If you feel you cannot change your company, then it may be time to change your industry, or consider retirement.
Outlining these options is important, as too often we are too close to the situation to see the reality of our need to break away. Gain that inch of perspective by
‘Taking a deep breath, walking out your company’s front door, taking another deep breath and then turning around and look at the building and say – what would you change if this was the first time you were walking in the door?
John Johnson from Intel was the first person I heard use those words to describe how to rejuvenate yourself, your view of your situation and the focus of your leadership. JJ was right and its something we should do more often.
Who am I to talk?
People who know me may find this post odd as I am a quintessential ‘work-aholic’ where my work is both my job and my hobby. These blog posts are an example of that, a personal interest that is seemingly the same as my job. So the idea that I know how and when to take a break may seem odd as I rarely get away from it all.
These are just thoughts and ideas that ran through my mind while I was sitting on the flight and listening to this seasoned crew do their job and illustrate the need for us all to take a break.
Hope that you are getting the break you need this summer.