5 Life Lessons Only an Idiot Needs a Month Off to Learn

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A man having an epiphanyGentle Reader,

You may have heard that I recently took a month off. While you didn’t see a drop in my articles here on Recruiter.com (because of a stockpile of drafts and the hard-working Red Branch Media team), my sabbatical was chronicled in Forbes (ahem) and I wrote a bit about it on Marenated, my home on the Interwebz.

I got a lot of questions about my time off from colleagues, family and even people I met on vacation. While I learned a ton from my vacation and subsequent dive back into running my digital agency, I sorta think most people don’t need that much time to realize the things that are now painfully obvious to me.

1) Keep your friends close and forget about your enemies. Being busy made me inflate the latter with importance and forget about the former. Talk about screwy priorities! Work and business are important but not as important as people who care about you. It can be easy to forget this in a highly competitive industry. Don’t.

So, I… decided to set aside Fridays for phone calls and emails and cards to friends and colleagues. Of course, I can’t spend the whole doing that, but if I bust my hump the rest of the week to ensure that my Fridays are free for connecting, innovating and brainstorming with awesome people then I know my company (and my life, duh) will benefit.

2) Inspiration is finite. Coming up with creative designs, campaigns, copy and content for every new client that walks through RBM’s virtual doors ain’t easy people! Because inspiration is finite, you need to pounce on it when it shows up and fight hard for ideas you believe in. Lots of people in business want to play it safe, but if you care about the work you’re doing, you’ll push them just a little harder.

So, I…am taking morning time to walk and blog. There is only so much time before the crew gets here to work, so if I make myself run for 30 minutes and write for 30 minutes, the inspiration just might start showing up around then. I am pushing calls with clients to the afternoon to attack issues when I’m freshestthe A.M.

3) Hard work isn’t finite. When you find that your muse has deserted you (see #2), know that hard work never will. When you’re not inspired, pay the bills or answer emails; clean up databases or whatever other mindless trick you need to complete, because despite being boring, that stuff needs to get done. And no one ever got anywhere by avoiding the crummy stuff. Except Tim Ferris, that guy’s amazing.

So, I…am answering emails in batches, writing at a specified time and building “admin time” into my day. Hard work (whether doing the laundry or your taxes) seems to beam all kinds of creative ideas into my head.

4) You are not the center of the universe. Crazy right? I learned this, not at my mother’s knee like a normal person, but when I left my business in the hands of my VERY capable team and decided to “unplug”. Now, I was still posting on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, but I wasn’t really reading emails or checking on invoices. In fact, when team members emailed me about very real issues and I just….didn’t care. They figured it out. I might have worked myself out of a job.

So, I…am taking it easy. I used to promise clients’ the quickest turnaround I could muster, only to have them say “take your time!” Now I am giving myself less stress and more fun by revising deadlines, pricing structure and that sweet panacea of the overworked entrepreneurdelegation.

5) Families change. Whether that means you break up with a spouse, watch your sister move away, lose a beloved cat or simply see the kids entering high school, there is a reason to leave work at work and enjoy all the other things around you. Most people don’t need a month off to realize this most basic of truths, but I did. (See also, the song ‘Cat’s in the Cradle”)

So, I…am quitting work at 4pm every day. In extreme cases, I may work longer. But I start early, I always work through lunch and so does the team. There’s no reason we shouldn’t knock off a little earlier and enjoy our families. Work should enable life, not cripple it.





By Maren Hogan