I’ve spent many, many years feeling guilty for taking time off. Rewinding the clock, it’s safe to say that the last 20 years of my career I felt bad asking for time off, and felt even worse when I returned. Now, as an entrepreneur of a bustling social media agency, I still feel guilty which is weird because it’s my company!
Is there something off with my mental health, is it the American way or do we just have it all wrong?
The answer: I think it’s a bit of all three.
I recently returned from a 10-day trip to Europe where our little family touched down in London for a few days and finished in Paris. It’s been over 20 years since I visited Europe and as I casually strolled the Parisian streets, backpack strapped while I idly sipped a double espresso that I thought to myself, “I am doing this all wrong.”
Sure, I put an OOO message on knowing there was no way I was totally going to disconnect, but I still worked to act casual. By day 3 I was in relatively good shape and only checked my emails once the kids went down. It was manageable.
So how do I apply my casual, carefree strolls in the Louvre to my busy life as a mother, wife and leader? Truth is, I don’t know. I have not mastered it yet but maybe there is something to learn from all this.
- The first is, and you’ve heard it before, never lose your sense of wonder. We purposely did NOT stay on the Champs or near Buckingham Palace. Instead, we chose to live like locals and find Airbnbs that forced us to walk or take the tube. Through that, I was able to observe human nature. The simple things: Parisian mothers ushering their kids to school on scooters; British men reading the newspaper during their lunch. And ahhhhh, the cafe life. Taking in the architecture and walking was equivalent to several therapy sessions.
- Block time to avoid emails. This is a long shot but it’s worth a try. And truthfully, I owe it to the time difference. Not sure that I could go eight hours avoiding business communication at home, but blocking time on my calendar to just think, register emotions and hypothesize solutions really helps you do your job better. I think I will pretend I am on Paris time and see how it goes.
- Let people do their job. I did this, really and truly, for the first time because I had no choice. And some were new hires but hey, that’s why you hired them! Business needed to be taken care of and exhibiting trust in your employees is the #1 way to grow them into strong leaders. Do you know every single person on my staff killed it while I was gone. So the real question is: should I go away more often?
- Look for new inspiration. I think this is the biggest gift I give to myself every time I travel; only this time I saw it through the eyes of my children. Art, history, fashion, music and cuisine play such a significant role in my personal growth and creativity. I could sit at a cafe and watch people for hours. Seeing a new wing of the Louvre or experiencing Hyde Park for the first time as swans glided along the water...there is nothing like this. It’s magical and it helps me to appreciate what I have but also yearn to simplify my life.
That’s my list. I could go on but I think it has to be attainable otherwise what’s the point. And one last thing...you know what this trip taught me? The art of conversation. We forget about it. We are always rushing from one point to the next; myself included.
Learn to let go of the guilt. Take time for you and your family and feed your brain. No one can run on empty for long.