August 1, 2014
You don’t seriously think I’d write out 4,000 reasons to unplug in a newsletter, do you?! Who would read that?!
This is actually going to be a short newsletter because all it’ll take is a short story to convince you it’s ok to completely unplug while you’re on vacation or holiday.
In my first real job out of college, I worked for a Senior Vice-President at Sprint in Kansas City. His name was Bill. Actually, all the big guys were named Bill. I think it was an executive job requirement.
It was during the summer when lots of people take vacation to travel and spend time with their families. The week before Bill was scheduled to leave on his family trip, he met with all his direct reports and assistants (I was one of them) to prepare us for his absence.
Each person had different marching orders and was responsible for a different part of his immense division. He ran a well-oiled machine (as corporations go) that could run without him, at least for a while.
On the first day of his vacation, as I was sitting at my executive assistant’s desk outside his office, I heard his pager beeping.
Yes, this was way back during the days of pagers. He had one of those big clunky Motorola’s with the 3 lines of text on a green screen. I remember that so vividly because a year later, I had one of my own. The thing was huge!
Anyway, his pager was beeping and a mild panic set in. What should I do?! A beeping pager on a senior executive’s desk can’t be a good thing! But a junior assistant in his first month looking at a senior executive’s pager might be even worse!
I wasn’t the only one who heard it, but I was the only one in a panic. Did that mean it was my responsibility to check it?! What was I supposed to do?! It was the only scenario I hadn’t been prepped for!
So I nonchalantly asked another EA what I should do about it. She said, “Do about what?”
Hadn’t she heard it beeping?! To me, it was like a ticking time bomb! Beep beep beep…….Beep beep beep. Ugh!
“The pager,” I calmly replied, trying not to show any fear.
She said, “Oh, don’t worry about that. When Bill goes on vacation, he completely unplugs. He doesn’t take his pager or his laptop. That’s why he spent last week preparing us. If someone is paging him, that probably means they aren’t part of his core team and don’t know he’s gone. He has 4,000 people reporting up through the ranks to him, but most of them will never know he took a vacation.”
Bill’s philosophy, as he later told me, was that his personal time was just that: personal. When he took time off to spend with his family, they deserved his undivided attention. And being completely unplugged is the only way to come back to work fully refreshed and reenergized.
That lesson I learned so early in my career has always stuck with me. If a man with 4,000 people reporting to him can go on vacation and completely unplug, so can I.
That’s why, as you’re reading this, I’m sitting on a beach somewhere in the beautiful Riviera Maya.
I wrote this newsletter last week and scheduled it to go out at its usual time. I also prepared my team for my absence and I’m confident they’ll steer the ship quite well while I’m gone. Amelia deserves my undivided attention, and that’s exactly what I’m going to give her.
When I come back to work next week, I’ll not only be a shade darker (with a few thousand more freckles), I’ll be fully refreshed and reenergized. And I’ll be ready to implement all my new ideas and sail full steam ahead!
Next time you’re thinking about taking your laptop on vacation or checking your email every 5 minutes from your phone while you’re lying under a cabana, think again. Instead, prepare your team ahead of time and leave your ship in their capable hands.
You’ve earned some time off. You deserve it. And you owe it to your loved ones.