What if the best career strategy you could put in place right now was to take time off from your job?
Sounds crazy, right?
I mean, if you take time off , how can you stay visible and make sure your job is SAFE?
How can you get things DONE?
Oh, and weren’t we taught the only way to create career success is to work harder and longer?
Sure, that works . . . sometimes.
But right now—and especially during times of dramatic change, whether organizational change or worldwide change— smart professionals watch for the signs that say it’s time for a break.
And then, they take it.
Here are five signs telling you it’s time to take time off.
Sign #1: You’re feeling . . . stuck.
Full disclosure: I’m grateful for stuckness.
But being stuck sucks.
I don’t want it for you, or anyone you love.
Often, taking time off can help you get clear on where you’re stuck.
And while the universe may not reveal itself to you during your time off and automagically erase the stuckiness from your life, taking a break can help you remember—and appreciate—the things in your life that aren’t so bad.
For example, in my conversations with clients, I notice that stuckness often takes a disproportionate amount of space in our minds.
It crowds out recognition of what’s going well, like our families, health, relationships, or even specific successes that we’re just not seeing when we spend all our time mulling over where we’re stuck.
So if you’re struggling being stuck, get your time off booked. You’ll never know what might unstick if you don’t.
Need help getting unstuck? Each month, I reserve time for a few free coaching consultations for readers of our work here at Red Cape Revolution–people just like you. Click here to schedule yours now.
Sign #2: Your brain needs a break.
Our bodies and brains are not built to operate like a computer, 24/7.
We’re built to sprint, then rest; then sprint, and rest.
Our bodies require that natural rhythm of up and down.
But we already know this, right?
After all, when our heart’s beating too fast after an extreme workout, we sit down until it goes back to normal.
When our legs start shaking after taking the stairs one too many times, we prop them up and give ’em a rub.
Why don’t we give our brain the same support?
Our big, beautiful brain is easily among the all-star organs in our bodies.
So let’s treat it as an honored friend, and give it the time off it needs to recharge and refresh.
Sign #3: Your team needs space to grow.
Sometimes our work is so broad, so powerful, so important that we don’t leave room for anyone else.
But when there’s no room for anyone else, your team can’t grow, and you’ll never grow beyond where you are now.
I had a client once who was worried about time she was taking off to celebrate her sister’s wedding. She’d earned the break and the wedding was an important family event.
However, as she explained, she led a large team, many of whom were new in the past year. She worried about:
- Projects that’d fall through the cracks;
- Mistakes that could happen;
- What others would think if there were problems.
After we talked through it, she realized her decision to take time off created an ideal situation to stretch her team’s muscles.
In her absence, they could see firsthand what it took to do the work she did, deepening their learning.
Before she left, it’d force her to teach and document her processes, too.
Finally, her absence would shine a flashlight through the work gaps—the places where the company or department is at risk because only one person knows what to do or how to do it.
Mind you, I understand that some of us value being “the one and only,” thinking it creates job security and lessens the chance we’d ever get laid off or furloughed.
But instead, when you’re the one recognizing the gap, doing the work to fill it and communicating the value of what you’re doing all along the way, you become invaluable.
(Of course, if there are NO gaps that emerge when you’re gone, then wake up: your job isn’t creating value, and it’s easily at risk. Start figuring out how to add more value—and share that with others —or start to move on before your job moves on you.)
Sign #4: You need to be more productive.
If you need to accelerate your productivity, take time off.
Yup, it’s true.
I’ll always remember this story from when I was a young pup at a large management consulting firm.
I was meeting with a very accomplished leader who’d just returned from six weeks off as part of the firm’s sabbatical program, casually called “splash” (as in a “splash” of vacation time).
I remember the conversation sounding something like this:
“I’ve never been an advocate for splash. I thought it’d take me too far out of the swing of things; that I’d get stale.
But it shocked me how valuable it’s been.
At first, I thought about nothing work-related. And that was new to me.”
[Sidenote: I’d worked on one of this leader’s teams; he was intense.]
“Later, even when I wasn’t thinking about work, I realized I’d started thinking differently about a few of the problems we’ve been facing over and over.
Now that I’m back, I feel like I’ve made more real progress in three days than in the three weeks I scrambled before getting out of town.
I’m already planning my next break.”
What that leader had unintentionally discovered was rest is the secret sauce to great productivity.
We’ve always known that stepping away from problems helps us find better solutions.
But for some reason, we’re afraid to let go.
Afraid to look like we’re not working hard enough or long enough.
If you’re having trouble convincing yourself (or someone you love) to take time off, remember that time off will make you more productive overall.
Sign #5: Someone you love needs attention.
Is someone missing you?
Maybe even someone who’s living in the same house with you?
(If anyone’s ever implored you to put down the phone or turn off the TV, that’s a sign they want more of you.)
Or, are YOU missing someone, or missing out on how someone important to you is thinking, doing, growing, wanting?
If so, when you take time off, you can attend to those relationships.
Our relationships are often at the heart of having a successful career strategy. If life’s not working well at home, chances are it’s not smooth at work, either.
When we’re not paying attention to our key relationships, everything suffers.
Of course, the relationship that may need attention most might be the one you have with yourself.
Taking yourself on a mini-break could help you have the breakthrough you want.
How about YOU? Marked your out-of-office days on your calendar? yet
Or will you be one of the many who never take time off from work this year?
Sadly, The Center for Economic and Policy Research showed that 25% of Americans take no vacation at all.
No wonder so many of us are cranky about our careers.
Don’t let that be you.
We need you too much in our world of work.
Get out your calendar now, and plan to take time off you need to create the career you’ll continue to love.
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