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Know Thyself

As TDs, we often find ourselves being stretched. Whether it’s learning new technology, pulling off the impossible or working really hard for a few weeks to produce a big service or renovation, there is rarely a dull moment in our lives. One thing that I’m learning is that I have to really pay attention to how I react in those stretching times. 

We have probably all had times when we’re ready to quit our jobs (post-Christmas and Easter seem to be common). But instead of a new job, what we really need is some time off. And if you’re like me, taking time off is hard to do. That’s something else I’ve been learning about myself. 

When I started the current remodel project, I knew I was going to be working 7 days a week for about 6 weeks. It’s a long stretch, but I knew there would be an end date, and things would get back to normal afterwards. However, I also knew that I would need some time off to recover, rest and refresh. But, I know that there are always things that need to be tweaked after a big install like that. Sure, we’ll be fully functional this coming weekend (when we open the new space), but there will be system processors to adjust, lights to program or re-focus, and probably some networking to do.

It would be really easy for me to plan to take time off, but end up coming in “for a few hours” on one of those early days off “just to finish a few things.” And since I will be back in my office, looking at the mountain of paperwork I need to get done, I’d come in the next day to work on that, “just for a little bit to catch up.” Before you know it, I’d be back to work, having never fully rested.

This time around, I decided I needed some motivation to actually take the time off. So, during the first week of the project, I booked a flight to a favorite city. I started to plan the things I wanted to do and see. I booked a rental car and hotel, and planned to stay with some friends. This serves two purposes. First, it gives me something to look forward to. As I was getting up for the 38th straight day in a row, knowing that I was just a few weeks away from being able to enjoy some time in the woods by myself was most encouraging.

Second, it ensures that I will actually take the time off. I can’t go in to the office if I’m not in the same state. I booked my flight for my 4th day off; that gives me time to sleep in, rest and take some naps before I head off. But just about the time I’d be tempted to head in to “check on things,” I’ll be boarding a plane. 

This is all about establishing some boundaries. I know we are short-handed right now so my ATD, Jon, will bear the brunt of that on his own those two weekends I’m gone. But he’s fully capable of making it happen. There will be paperwork that I won’t get done until I get back, and accounting will have to live with that. A few things will go unfinished for a few weeks, but that’s OK. I need to get healthy again before I return.

I know all of this because I’ve not done this in the past, and it’s cost me dearly. Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I believe it’s important we get to know ourselves, and our weaknesses so that we can plan for them and protect ourselves. Of course, my weaknesses may not be yours, and you need to figure out what you need to learn about yourself to be most productive and healthy. 

Do that, and you will stand a much greater chance of staying with this gig for a long time to come. 

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