Fighting off the hypocrisy of logging on when I am taking vacation time

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.

Comments (7)

  1. Erika Ehrli says:

    Hi all, Just some random thoughts before I go on vacation, stay a week OOF without my laptop, and try

  2. David Cumps says:

    Multi-tasking isn’t all that good anyway, your brain has to constantly switch contexts as well, which is a loss.

    Here’s a nice post about it:

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Ooh, great link. I definitely think that multi-tasking makes me stupider : ) That’s whole switching concept, plus my shprt attention span makes it troublesome for me. I hate looking stupid!

  4. tod hilton says:

    Baby steps…that’s the ticket. Don’t log on unless you really want too, otherwise [as you already know] it will still be there when you get back. Decompressing is so important and unplugging from the grid is an important part of that for folks like us.

    Have a great vacation!

  5. Diana says:

    H – my personal opinion is that you need to take care of yourself. You won’t be any good to Microsoft, your friends or family if you burn out. We LOVE hearing from you, but, honestly, we can wait. Set this ball down and oof.

  6. Deb says:

    I’m not sure when you’re headed out for vacation.  But I can only say this…..

    I just took a vacation for my birthday.  I went back to "the place I moved here from"  (I’ve moved a lot folks) and had the most fabulous time.  And, wonder of wonders, I managed to not check my email….I didn’t check voice mail either.  I didn’t take any work with me.  I didn’t talk about work.  I didn’t even think about work.

    And it was one of the most wonderful vacations I’ve ever had.  A perfect break.  Next, I plan to do the same for a longer break between 12/22 and 1/2.  I think I get what this whole vacation thing is all about now.  My hope for the new year is to expand this into actually taking a weekend here or two off as well!

    I vote for taking a clean break for a few days.

    You can do it, I know you can.


  7. vicki says:

    Oh! You’re back! I see comments! There they are! (I had serious One Louder Withdrawl Syndrome or commonly referred to as OLWS.)

    Thank you for coming back to us, Heather… I mean, I’m GLAD you took some time off, but I’m also happy to have you back in Blogland. 🙂

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