Fresh out of college, I started my career as the project manager on the creative team at Cross Point Church, and I was ready to make a splash. I wanted to make a good impression right off the bat, and continuing on, I wanted to have a successful career. And what have I been taught all my life? That hard work and determination can get you anywhere.
And I was, and still am, all about that idea, especially as I continued to read about the bad rap millennials get for being lazy. I wanted to have a successful career and prove people wrong about millennials. And if it was true that most millennials were lazy, working hard meant I’d get further faster! (Side note: I’ve not found that to be true. Give a millennial something they believe in, and they’ll chase after it with passion and zeal.)
However, in my tunnel vision of “hard work,” I made a big mistake, and it started with my phone. In my Mail settings on my phone, I changed my notifications settings to fetch every 15 minutes, so I was always in the know of what was going on. I was always ready to work hard and get it right. I was always available to answer questions, fix what problems I could and hit any deadline put in front of me. I was always “on.”
Nights, weekends, vacation, wherever. I was in touch and willing to answer. And honestly, I didn’t feel at all like I was doing anything wrong or being taken advantage of. I loved what I was doing, and so any chance I got to work was a blast for me. I loved feeling needed and valuable to my team, and I loved being the “go-to” guy. And always being on worked for me. Always being on gained a lot of trust from people I worked with because they knew I’d do whatever it took to get it done. Always being on helped me win.
But that’s sustainable for only so long. Luckily, I didn’t have a big crash and burn moment. Instead, summer came and the busyness at worked slowed down a little, which meant even if I wanted to always be “on,” there wasn’t quite as much to keep me busy. And in that season, I learned what it meant to pause and rest. I went on a vacation and turned off the notifications from my email, and it was incredible. Cross Point was still standing when I got back, and no one saw me as less valuable than when I left. I felt rested and excited to keep on trucking. I had new ideas and saw new solutions to old problems. I had fresh eyes and a new perspective.
Cross Point’s pastor, Kevin Queen, spoke the other day on the importance of rest, and I love this idea that he put forward. He emphasized the importance of a Sabbath this way: “Do you trust that God can do more in six days than you can in seven?”
I do believe that. My enneagram 3 side sometimes finds it hard to believe. But I believe it. I need to believe it because it’s what will sustain me for a long career, but it’ll also give me the new perspective and ideas that I found that first time I unplugged.
A routine of unplugging allows me a deep breath in and a breath of fresh ideas out.
So how do you do that? How do you actually build that time to unplug into your work life when it feels like there’s an endless amount of things to tackle? Here are 3 ideas to unplug while still making a good impression:
1. Only ask when you need to, and answer when you need to.
If you want people to respect your time off, you need to respect theirs. Disciplining yourself to stop the emails at 5 p.m. and not send any during the weekends will allow you to be off, but it’ll also set the tone for your co-workers. If you’re not sending emails late at night, those won’t warrant late-night responses. You’ll be getting “pinged” less during your time off, and you’ll be winning points with your co-workers for the same reason. Email, Slack, texting and whatever other communication channels you use are often a vicious cycle of call and response, but you can be the one to break that chain.
However to make a good impression, use those work hours to flip this idea on its head. If you have a question, try to figure it out yourself. If you’re viewed as a problem solver, that’ll go a long way with your boss and your co-workers. Feel free to ask, but only when you’ve exhausted every other resource to solve the problem yourself.
And on the flip side, be quick to answer during your work hours. You can still be the go-to person if you’re on top of the things that are coming into your world. Be quick to respond to emails when you can. If you need to talk to someone, don’t go through all the trouble of trying to schedule a meeting. If you can handle it in a two-minute conversation, just walk over and see if they can talk. Answer as soon as you can to win some points.
2. Get some alone time and some friend time.
Over the past few years, I’ve gotten in an unintentional routine. Working at a church I have Friday and Saturday off, and with that schedule, I’ve found that Fridays have become friend days and Saturdays have become me days. My wife works on Fridays, so those days have become chances for me to build something, go play golf, hang out on the boat or go to a movie with some friends. And then on Saturdays, it’s me time. I count hanging out with Heather as me time, by the way. That combination is the perfect amount of extroversion and introversion that I need. When I get a weekend that’s well-balanced in these areas, I find that I come to work on Sunday with more energy and excitement to tackle the week.
And the same goes for Sunday-Thursday. Taking some time at work to be social with your co-workers will go a long way. Our creative team at Cross Point is really close, and without taking time to be social and friends with that team, I wouldn’t get a thing done.
We work well together because we’re intentional to find times to be friends as well as co-workers.
It helps build trust among us in a really unique way.
But sometimes, I just need to get stuff done. I learned this from our Communications Director, Chelsea, that sometimes you just need some alone time. Chelsea blocks out every Wednesday morning to work from home so she can knock out emails, tasks or whatever else needs taken care of. So I tried this idea, and she’s on to something. Over the past couple of months, I’ve been taking time to put in my headphones at my desk, go to a coffee shop or work from home for a few hours during my week, and it’s incredible how much you can get done.
And just like on the weekends, it’s all about finding that balance between task time and social time. That’s the magic balance that’ll help you win trust by getting things done in a timely manner but also winning trust with your teammates by being a good hang.
3. Use your vacation time.
Chances are you have vacation time that’s paid time off. That’s right paid time off. Which means it’s time off that you’re paid for! So on the flip side, if you don’t take your vacation time, you’re voluntarily giving up money. Use those days and take advantage of all that your workplace is offering you! Paid time off is a benefit where you work because your employer knows that you need a break. You need to realize that you’re not immune from that. You need to use that time to unplug and take a break.
But something funny happens when I’m on vacation. When I unplug and take vacation, I try to not let my mind be occupied by work. Usually the first day or two I block out all work thoughts, but then something interesting happens. I’ll be sitting on the beach and randomly think of a new way to organize my meeting schedule. I’ll be looking out the window of a plane and think of a new way to structure the team. I’ll be out on the golf course and come up with a new hire to add to the team that could save us serious money in the long-run. And lucky for us, we all have a notepad in our pocket all the time.
I know it sound contradictory to be thinking of new ideas for work when you’re on vacation. I just spent the whole article telling you to leave work at work. But these thoughts just pop up randomly. I’m not dedicating time on vacation to “work brainstorm.” It would be silly for me to not capture these thoughts because oftentimes they only pop up when my brain isn’t bogged down with the work day-to-day. Use your vacation to come back with a list of any inspiration you find while you’re out of the office. It’s not a task to add to your vacation. It’s a chance to really use your vacation.
Have you implemented these 3 ideas in your life currently? If not, with which of the 3 things would you have the most difficulty? Why is that? Could you share with a trusted friend who can help you stay accountable in practicing these 3 ideas starting this week?