Make it non-negotiable
You may or may not have noticed that I was out on vacation last week. I spent the week being inspired and connecting with a number of amazing individuals. I listened to visionaries talk about creating and transforming community. I experienced creativity in as many ways as possible. Art. Music. Dancing. Listening. Gifts. Costuming. I connected with people I knew and others that were new to me. I even found a deeper connection with myself. Each connection was unique and created a bond that was deep, meaningful and beautiful. If you haven’t guessed already, I went back to Burning Man. It was the first extended break that I’ve taken since starting my business and the inspiration I received has renewed my soul and my desire to serve. I'll be sharing more of my take aways in future newsletters, but I'd like to start by asking you a question.
When was the last time you took a vacation?
And I am not talking about that time you …
… turned on your out of office but still checked your email.
… took time off but still dialed in to certain meetings or client calls.
… went on vacation and then secretly did some work while your partner was still sleeping.
When was the last time you took a real break and came back with a renewed sense of energy? I want to know when you totally disconnected and enjoyed some time for yourself. If you can’t think of a time when you took that kind of a break, I want to inspire you to create one. I know what you might be thinking.
I can’t completely disconnect.
What if someone needs me?
My boss would never allow that.
It’s pointless for me to even ask.
I have to be available for my clients.
It’s who I am and what I do.
I’m in charge.
I told my team I am always here if they needed me.
I have to be available.
I understand your thoughts completely. In fact, those were my thoughts for many years. I never traveled without my laptop. I even went camping with it and had minor meltdown when I found out that I didn’t have cell service one time!
The few extended vacations I took were scheduled months in advance. I over prepared and notified everyone that I’d be gone. Despite all my preparation, I would end up committing to doing something over my vacation before leaving. If it didn’t happen before I left, it would happen while I was gone. I would continue checking email and I would jump in at the first sign of a possible fire. Each request either felt too important or too easy to just take care of instead of waiting until I got back. I always delivered and yet I never felt like my personal sacrifices were really appreciated.
This part is important --> If you become the “yes, I’m always available and will get it done no matter what” person, everyone will expect that to always be true. Two things you need to know: (1) they are following the rules you are creating and (2) it doesn’t have to be that way. By telling them you can squeeze in one more thing before you go or committing to still dialing in to that one phone call while you are away, you are giving them permission to disregard your off time off. You may even be sending a silent message that says you don’t trust them (but that's a whole different topic).
In my last corporate job, I had an amazing boss. He taught me so many things about work and life. One of the things that stood out the most was the way he upheld his boundaries. He had non-negotiable boundaries that included not working on his sabbath. This was laid out clearly before he even started, and I remember thinking he wasn’t going to last more than a few months. How could he be a C-suite executive and be completely unavailable 1 day a week?
I heard people talk about non-negotiable boundaries, but I had never met anyone who practiced it at this level. As we began to work together, I noticed how everyone worked around his schedule. Yes, there were some scheduling challenges, but everyone made it work (including our CEO who never stopped working).
The best part was that he was amazing at his job and that’s what people talked about. He connected with everyone and wanted the best for each person and the company. That’s what people talked about, not his work schedule. His working hours had no impact on his ability to complete his work and people admired him for that.
Inspired by his example, I began practicing my own non-negotiable boundaries. They started small. Not checking my email after 9pm. Not responding to non-urgent emails over the weekend. Taking the occasional half day on Friday. After I built up enough confidence, I took a bigger leap and went away on vacation for 1 full week without any technology. I made sure everyone knew it was happening and was pleasantly surprised by the encouragement and support I received.
It felt like the best week ever (after the initial letting go phase of course). What I realized was I had an amazing team. I also realized that I couldn’t be held responsible for what happened when I wasn’t there. Having the time off to reset and rejuvenate was what I needed to come back and see things from a fresh new perspective.
Issues that I struggled with before I left were magically solved upon my return. New problems that came up while I was gone were taken care of by people who were allowed to step up. People noticed that I was more cheerful and rested. No one thought anything less of me for taking the time off. And for the first time in a long time, I felt excited to be going back into work.
Now it’s your turn. Where can you start establishing your own non-negotiable boundaries? If committing to a week-long disconnected vacation sounds insane, don’t start there. Set yourself up for success by starting with a shorter period of time. Try some of the email boundaries I mentioned. No responding to non-urgent emails in the evenings or over the weekends. Wait to check your email until you get to work in the morning. Create a morning routine that sets the tone for your day. Set a non-negotiable time to leave work each day. Start taking time for lunch and actually leave your desk.
The key is to set your intention and make it NON-NEGOTIABLE!
Implementing a change takes practice. There is going to be a period where things are going to feel uncomfortable for you and possibly for others. That’s normal and it will pass. Start with small steps that will build your confidence and ease your co-workers/clients/friends & family into this new paradigm. It is possible to live a balanced and happy life and you deserve to experience that kind of lifestyle.