What Ever Happened to Summer?

August 16th, 2005

Recently, on a summer Friday at 6:30 an exhausted client, who was returning my call of Monday, said: “Someone did not get the memo about summer.”

It seems that easy summer living is a thing of the past. And, as with any unmet expectation, the disappointment has an impact beyond the actual reality.

Missing a restful, relaxing and fun summer seems to be standard now. In the Wall Street Journal, August 10th, there was a striking article called “How to Avoid Taking a Vacation So Good It Hurts to Come Back,” in which Jared Sandberg takes the issue even further. He notes that people who want take time off need to plan to avoid the pre-vacation intensity and post-vacation depression. So, one may ask, why bother?

Read the recent Families and Work Institute Study, “Overwork in America: When the Way We Work Becomes Too Much”

- Download free Executive Summary (640KB)

- How overworked are you? Take the quiz.

The researchers note that at least 1/3 of Americans report that they are overwhelmed and overworked, yet are unable to or afraid to take necessary time off.

Another recent related article you may find of interest is:

How Too Many Long Hours Can Be Bad for Your Career, by Hunkar Ozyasar http://www.careerjournal.com/columnists/perspective/20050623-fmp.html?cjpos=columnists_whatsnew

So, for those of you who are stressing post and pre, or in spite of having a vacation, here are five tips for taking mini-vacations that will give you a little taste of what summer used to mean. You may want to keep these in mind during the winter as well.

1. Every hour or two, take a 5 minute meditation break. You don’t have to get into a lotus position or even chant “om”. Merely clear your mind and focus on your breathing, an image of the ocean wafting in and out, or picture in your mind of your favorite vacation memory. To get some help with meditation techniques try: http://www.learningmeditation.com. There is even a chime reminder you can download: http://www.mindfulnessdc.org/mindfulclock.html

2. Take one afternoon off and go to the park, the movies, a pool, a museum, catch a matinee. Do not take work with you… turn off your cell phone, Treo or Blackberry. You can plan for this time or just take off. You will be surprised how refreshed you are the next day.

3. Pursue an interest, craft, or learn a new skill. Schedule non-negotiable time in for this endeavor. Make it a priority. If you select an activity that requires concentration, such as learning a new instrument, beading, knitting or pottery or even reading to a young child, you will find your mind is fully engaged and you return to your work with much more energy.

4. Next time you are in transit, put your work away and just people watch. Try to guess about others lives, have a conversation with your cab driver, and stare out the window and just daydream. You will reset your mind, and might learn something new!

5. Plan a “renewal day” during which you self-indulge. Have a massage, manicure, and pedicure, spend two hours in your gym, get a new haircut, a facial or a makeover in a department store, take a tour of a new neighborhood, go for a bike ride. Shop for fall clothes, or just pile up all those things you have been meaning to read that are not work related and stay in bed in the air conditioning. Turn off the phone, don’t check email… just relax. You will be surprised at the feeling of relief.

Risk… Nothing terrible will happen in just one day. Except, maybe your disappointed expectations will dissipate!

I actually took this advice myself. Want to see what I do? Check out http://www.m-l-p.com
and scroll down to the bottom of the page!

Have any other ideas? Let me know what works for you!

Please comment.

One comment on “What Ever Happened to Summer?

  1. Carol Anderson on said:

    Why bother with vacation if it’s so hard to get away and so difficult to reenter? Because without that time in the “off” position, one never recoups enough to either fully function or enjoy work. I don’t think it’s old-fashioned or unfeasible to take the leisurely two-three week “unplugged and incommunicado” vacations that actually permit time for unwinding, self reflection, and rejuvernation. If you’re so indispensible you can’t be gone that long, you or your organizations hasn’t built in the bench strength that is required for succession planning.

    A bit of self assessment as to what tradeoffs one is willing and able to explore or make to create long-term better balance is required. Am I thrilled every day that I have less money to live in now and in the future than if I’d stayed in the corporate pressure cooker? No, but the respect, rare autonomy, and seasonal downtime that I’ve found at least in my role in academe, as well as the reward of seeing my graduate students fulfill their aspirations to make a difference in the world, more than offset the reduced compensation.

    Ozyasar’s essay is helpfully concrete in how to make changes, not just adjust to chronic overwork. His analogy suggesting that those who work at 98% of capacity all of the time don’t have enough reserve to dig into when extra effort is really needed is vivid.

    What’s the adage? No one has on their list of regrets that they wish they’d spent more time at the office.

    Everything I’ve read suggests that the generations entering the marketplace today are not willing to conform to the business models the American baby boomers lived with–80 hour consulting weeks, 60% time on the road, virtual withdrawal from family life, dog-eat-dog competition. They may not be invited to: ironically, those hungry to adopt it appear to be young educated Indian and other Asians able and eager to fill the jobs rushing offshore from the US. And most Europeans never bought the model, universal though Americans may believe it was.

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