So what do we do now?
As my husband Andy Zeeck put it, "We just had an 18-month wake-up call. We have been forced to stop, to slow down, to say 'no' to things. We've survived it. Now, do we need or want those old ways back? Think about what has given you joy and what has beaten you down, and go forward with the joy."
So, how do we do that at work?
For many of us, how we work, live, socialize, celebrate, exercise...it all took a hit in the last 18 months. Much of our daily life moved to our devices. Our relationships. Our information. Our work. Our play. Our therapy. That got addictive, fast! Now we have to relearn how to walk away. Putting the phone down is a good start. But there's more to it, I think. While we can't control a pandemic, we can plan for the things we can control. Stick with me!
We just spent the last 18 months changing everything about our lives, whether by choice or by chance or just on demand. Exhausting! Changing one more thing sounds like, well, more work. No thanks! I know it's not like this for everyone, but for many of us, how we move forward and re-enter the world may be up to us. Of course, we can't control a pandemic. But we can control expectations. Yippee! Now we're back in control of something.
Here's something useful I've learned in 12 years of running my own show: Many of us can set our own parameters, but we don't take time to do it. For example, I have shared with clients that I pick my son up at school on specific days, and that's when my workday ends. Guess what everyone says to that? "That's great!" So much easier than just trying to sneak off and pretend, don't you think? That's just one example. It goes beyond summer for us, and maybe you too. But summer's a great place to start.
Need help with your "walk away for a while" plan this summer? Here is an example of what to say:
"Dear Supervisor/Client: I will be out of the office next week, and I won't have access to email. So let's set aside some time early this week to get things lined up, so you don't have to worry while I am out!"
Hooray for planning! Just a simple message saying you want to get things squared away first is comforting to the recipient, but it also sets the expectation that you kind of want to be left alone while out. THIS IS FAIR, AND YOU DESERVE IT, EVEN IF YOU'RE NOT AN EMPLOYEE! You aren't abandoning anyone; you genuinely need this time to refresh so you can be your best at work upon your return.
Of course, then it's up to you to put your phone away and go have some fun.
Do you have any tips on stepping away after this long run of near-constant accessibility? I would love to read it in the comments.