Nine days I spent off the proverbial grid, and it was incredible! I turned off all notifications on my phones – yes I carry two phones – and got to working…on myself.
Before this, I found myself getting easily irritated at stupid things. I couldn’t sleep, I felt anxious, and the weight of the world was getting too heavy. I had been going for too long without respite, and it was catching up. I needed a break.
The last time I felt like this I went to my therapist and told her I was on the verge of a breakdown.
She explained, “Nick, you’re not having a breakdown, you’re feeling vulnerable.”
Damnit, she was absolutely right. I took two weeks in Europe and was back at it fully recharged and killing it!
The same was needed now, but how could I take time off? I just hired a new employee, I had projects in motion, I needed to reach out to partners, blah blah blah. I spent so much energy worrying more about everyone and everything else that I was putting myself off. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past, it’s to never let that happen again. So, I took off the entire next week.
Before heading out, I explained to my team and every team involved on the projects we were working on that I would be gone for the week. Any issue that would arise would have to be handled by themselves, as a consensus, or wait until I got back; I was not to be bothered.
I’ve had this dream of taking time to myself where I would be sipping tropical drinks on a beach somewhere. I’ve also dreamt about renting a little villa where I would spend my days writing my screenplay on a vintage typewriter with a pencil tucked behind my ear and endless coffee brewing to keep me going.
Then I realized what I really needed; more importantly, what I actually wanted at the time. I wanted to be home with my wife and my dog. I wanted to read the pile of books I’ve collected and stared down day after day but never actually got to read. I wanted to do all of that and/or nothing at all, completely uninterrupted. So I did.
For nine days, I shut myself out from the rest of the world, only checking in with family here and there. The first two days were reserved for nothing at all, which was so foreign to me that I instantly became anxious and worried. I felt nervous about losing my job. I even considered canceling my plans; then I thought better of it.
I knew I was stressed, so I let all the emotions flood in and then filtered out the useless crap. I didn’t pay attention to time. I napped when I felt like it, went for a walk, worked out, or just sat thinking, because I could. I allowed myself to be free.
The rest of the week I knew I wanted to be productive, so I scheduled yoga classes, went to spin class, and hiked when the mood struck me. I ended up reading seven books, and even started three more. I watched my wife perform her craft magically in a stage production of “The Little Mermaid.” I caught up on my favorite shows: the Crown, Arrow, and Schitt’s Creek, to name a few. I drove out to the beach, I went for a massage at the spa, got my haircut by my barber, tuned up my motorcycle, organized my home, caught up with friends, cooked some wonderful meals, and even baked some of my famous cookies. Most importantly, I spent quality time with my loved ones.
The week was all about self-improvement and relaxation. By the end of the week, I felt improved and relaxed.
My stress levels dramatically dropped. I was no longer anxious. Fears subsided. I felt renewed. Sure, the urge to check my phones was there, but I never gave in. It was tough at first, but I relented. That urge subsided as time went on.
There is only one person that will take care of you, and that is you. If you’re feeling anything remotely close to what I felt, then take the time you need to better yourself and your situation. Work will wait regardless of those who tell you it won’t.
If you lead a team and wonder how you could “abandon” them, what you will find is that people will learn to deal with issues themselves. If they can’t, you can deal with them when you get back. There is no emergency that cannot be handled by someone else. You are not a God, so calm that ego and go sip a margarita. Besides, most emergencies are hardly ever that.
When you get back to it, you can congratulate your team for being resourceful. Those who look for answers will often find them. More importantly, you will further gain their trust – and you will earn theirs – when situations like these arise.
Ultimately, the benefits outweigh the cons, because, well, there are no cons. Only you know what you need and only you can give that to yourself. You should never feel as though you cannot take time for yourself. If you do, then it’s time you did just that.
By Nicholas Lucin