You think the interesting internal battle is good versus evil? I can’t believe how much mental energy I have already burnt trying to decide if I log on while I take holiday time off. It’s ridiculous.
Having worked at Microsoft for the number of years I have, I have learned that no matter what, you won’t have time to finish everything you would like to get done. That whole concept of cleaning your desk off before you go home for the day, you can pretty much forget it. The simple fact is that the work is still going to be there the next day and prioritizing is the only way to ensure your mental health.
Incidentally, this is what passes for stress at Microsoft as far as I am concerned. It’s that sometimes overwhelming feeling of multiple balls in the air when you know full well that one of those suckers is going to hit the ground. This used to wake me up in the middle of the night. I wasn’t worried about how I was going to get things done, I was worrying about forgetting to get something done, about catching the blue ball when I should have been catching the yellow. I think that the manifestation of this situation in my life, complete with furious and lengthy “to-do” lists, can be blamed on my weakness in multi-tasking. I think multi-tasking is over-rated anyway and I’ve been known to shout “hang up the phone!” to drivers that slow down to a creep while they dig in their glove compartment for a pen while the phone is wedged between their shoulder and their ear. Everyone knows the talking on the cell phone in your car should only be done when stuck in traffic. I think that the challenge for me is that having several disparate activities that need to be addressed is a little disorienting; my mind flits between one and the next when what I really want to do is focus. That’s just me. It also explains why I can arrive home from a day at the office and not remember my drive home. Hey, at least I am not talking on the phone while I do it.
Anyway, I digress as I try to convince myself not to log on during vacation time. Another realization that has helped me manage the juggling act is that I am free to say “no” at any time…well, almost any time. This is a right that I’ve become comfortable invoking as needed. I also use the lesser known, but almost as effective, right to renegotiate deadlines. There’s something so freeing about politely declining to participate in something. You start to feel the weight of the responsibility as the person is trying to sell you on the project. Once you have assessed the relative importance of the task and decided that it doesn’t trump your other work and can effectively unload that cuddly monkey from off of your back, you feel so much better. Just because you are a nice person, you can even recommend someone that might actually love working on that project. Of course success with saying no and renegotiating deadlines is totally contextual, so you need to know when to use it and with whom. It’s what is keeping me from circling the drain right now.
So after exercising the right to say no and renegotiate deadlines, and already accepting that some of the things on my to-do list will never see the drizzly light of day, how do I deal with the fact that I still feel an urge to log on while I am out of the office? Yes, I need to recharge, but now is a really inconvenient time for relaxing. Yeah, the work will be here when I get back, but what if I can just get a little bit of it done while I am oof? Will I even be able to relax? Especially when I am worrying about blog spam?
I actually thought I was going to get to the end of the blog post with an answer for myself. I think I am a couple steps closer to my answer, but I need to take some baby steps to get there. Nothing that a little therapy couldn’t cure, though that’s not necessarily in my holiday plans. Maybe it should be.