Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Productivity Driven Vacations! Why I need down time to be the best I can be at work.

I am trying to remember the last time I have been able to disconnect from work and breathe, exhale, and to take a few moments from the production of work and income, to focus on me, home, Frank and our four-legged kids.


Truth be told, I left IBM full time more than eight years ago to work for iSOA Group. The goal was to do great work and achieve greater balance between my work and personal life. That worked for a while, but it still was challenging un the scheduled 30 hours a week to not find additional time where work was not on my mind, to not think about ideas to promote the business, find new clients, or for marketing to help the business grow. 

When I left iSOA Group, to become a consultant / marketing strategist for other companies, it became easier and harder to disengage.  When you are on your "own" you tend to worry about the next gig even if you have your toes in the ocean or are watching sunset at Mallory Square in Key West. The worry is that the next gig, could be your last. As Joan Rivers said, nothing was worse than a blank calendar and the fear that nobody really wants you. 

As you know, in 2017, we moved to Austin, and I started a new career opportunity with DeLaune and Associates. These last 20 months have been quite exciting; moving, selling homes in Fort Lauderdale, buying a new home in Austin, and starting a new professional adventure there was much to do and to keep me in motion.

Work was productive… new clients like Akamai and new opportunities at IBM Blockchain and Cloud and continued work with iSOA Group. Work is a good elixir to keep my mind busy and focused, but I must confess to not being the typical corporate type. When I look back, the best ideas I have come from walking around the block, on the beach or even around New York.

You see, for me to be at my best at work, I need down time even if that time is brief. Sometimes that is as simple as walking around Lady Bird Lake with Daisy Belle or even an hour at the gym in the morning. These are the times that I get the value of exercise, and to recharge my mind.  Such times are a temporary holiday that creates new pathways in my brain.  I am not one of those who can turn my mind off. I am jealous when I ask someone what they are thinking about and they say nothing and mean it. I can't do it. I need to change my environment to relax and freshen my mind.

These last eight months have been a little different, in that my focus for the agency is to do work on a partnering project for IBM. I have worked with Jamie Mendez, Director of Ecosystems, with IBM for more than a few years. When I was the alliance sales exec of IBM's WebSphere brand with PeopleSoft, Jamie was leading the marketing of the alliance with IBM. I remember she was creative, focused, and always up for new ideas. 

From the first days in Pleasanton doing a planning session to walking the streets of Paris at a PeopleSoft customer conference her mind was always open to new ideas, and this time last year was no different. After a nice dinner in Tarrytown, NY and a walk to see the new Tappan Zee Bridge we created the idea for a new partnering project for IBM, which we later named ‘BP Connect.’ And thus, shifted my focus and energy since July of last year.

IBM Launched BP Connect two weeks ago at the ‘Think 2019’ conference, after which I realized how tired I was, and that my mind needed a break.

Time off in corporate America are not what some may expect. Usually a week away means only checking email twice day, and joining an occasional conference call between runs to the beach or a roller coaster ride (ok not me! but for some!) at an amusement park.

But I succeeded at disengaging.

Frank, Daisy Belle and I hit the road to spend a few nights in Vicksburg, MS in a historic B&B, the Corners Mansion Inn where we met the stately hostess, Macy.

The inn is lovely, and the breakfasts were hearty enough to keep us full past lunch time. One morning, she suggested we check out Natchez, MS about an hour to the south, which we did. 

We quickly fell in love with Natchez and ended up staying a night there at another lovely Garden Song B&B and its accommodating host, Dan. We loved the walk-ability of Natchez, and the lovely riverfront. I know we will be back to visit both soon!

I am finishing the week with staycation in Austin, because Frank has a few work deadlines of his own. So, I have an errand or two, such as getting my car washed, my hair cut and most importantly continuing to rest my mind and body as I need to be fresh and open to new and exciting work opportunities.

The need to exhale, to prop my feet up, and to watch our fur baby, Lucky Cat, falling asleep to the rhythm of my typing is priceless. I am also reminded that my approach and journey through life is not typical. I can't turn on all cylinders and run all the time and create new ideas or execute flawlessly all the time. The key to me, and I wonder if this is true of many, is to find the times to let my mind wonder and open to new ideas.

When I don't do this often enough, problems creep up. 

First, I get frustrated very easily by others who either don't see what I see as a requirement or next steps.

Next, I find it harder to ease back and review my own work prior to sharing with others. This makes receiving their feedback difficult to handle whether it be positive or negative as I am already concerned about whether it is good enough.

And finally, work and home blend together in unhealthy ways.

Frank ends up hearing about the challenges and frustrations more than the good news at work. It becomes harder for me to separate from work so that our personal home time is just that, personal.

When work dominates my life to such a degree it is unhealthy for me and I know it is not good for our relationship. 

And to top it all off, without enough down time my creativity diminishes.

I don't have the same wandering mind that is on the hunt for the next idea or solution. Rather I focus on just getting through the tasks on my plate.

This leads to a final challenge for me. The more I work on a project, especially as the finish line or launch of a project approaches, or if the duration of the project lengthens without real progress, it can become challenging to stay focused but with new ideas and activities are fodder for my mind and help me stay focused and engaged for the best results.

Down time helps me re-open my creative energy and helps me refocus on the projects at hand and new opportunities, so my work is new and energetic.

I return to work in the morning.

It is a Thursday, so I have two days to catch back up and then a weekend before the next full work week.

It is true that downtime with vacation in which I disengage fully from work is good for my mind and soul, good for my home and relationship, good for my career, and good for finding my next step in life.  

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