Welcome to the ‘never-ending move’ edition of the Living La Vida Remota blog! I’m your host; Teresa “should have just set my possessions on fire last month,” Douglas.
We move in a week. On Sunday, I finished packing the kids’ room, and they’re living out of suitcases and sleeping on mattresses on the floor. On Monday morning, my son asked if we would do something special to mark the day we leave our house, which is also the last day of school, and the answer is yes, of course, we are.
I’m a big proponent of saying goodbye. I threw the goodbye party at work when I (and rather a lot of other people) got laid off from my previous job, and I invited everybody. And you know what? A whole whack of people came. Humans need closure.
Humans also need to be realistic, so our closure event will be getting ice cream from the shop around the corner after school. If I’m feeling really extravagant, I’ll buy fresh cinnamon rolls for breakfast. As my son would say, we’re “ballin’ on a budget.”
What’s the Douglas Up To?
Leave-taking and transitioning. I have been the sole moderator of my neighbourhood Facebook group for the last six-ish years. I tried to give this role to someone else at least three times, but no one stepped up. It turns out all I needed to do was move away. I’m handing that role over to three competent people.
I’m so glad. If you want a healthy online culture, you need people who are willing to manage the experience. You need a person or people who care a lot but are willing to kick people out if they violate group norms. Not everyone is willing to bring the hammer down. But as every gardener knows, a thriving garden needs both planting AND pruning.
This is true both on social media and in your work and business life. Don’t be afraid to pull out the weeds and trim out the dead weight. The people who should be there will get more room to thrive.
I love new notebooks. The blank pages are fresh and ready for anything. And while we can’t say that 2021 is exactly like a brand new notebook–we humans are definitely starting this year with some holdover scribbles–there is room for new things.
Hopefully, you kicked 2020 to the curb in a way that works for you. I bought a nice bottle of ice wine and a zoom ticket to The Second City’s Happy Hour show. The cool thing about living in Pacific Time while watching stuff that happens in Central Time is that I can pretend I’m the sort of person who is cool enough to attend evening shows AND still go to bed on time. I beat the system, yo.
This is going to be a fairly short blog because I’m neck-deep in Family Party (otherwise known as my anniversary) planning mode. I can’t tell you what I’m making because I found out my 11yr old reads this blog. I’ll post pictures after January 4th.
Let’s jump into the first of two things I want to tell you about.
I’m On the Fearless Leader Summit
A rather lovely person named Narelle Todd is putting on a no-cost summit January 4th – 24. She’s a long time remote businesswoman and author who decided to research HOW women entrepreneurs and small business owners can work remotely AND build a strong and vibrant team. The result is a series of succinct interviews (between 15-30 min) with people who work in the remote space.
I’ll share the link to my segment when I get it, but I encourage you to watch all the videos. They’ll be released one at a time over the course of the month. Topics include:
– The power of your leadership in creating a highly effective remote team;
– How to delegate and stop doing the jobs you hate in your business;
– How to release control and perfectionism as the Jill of All Trades in your business to build a kickbutt team that serves your clients just like you;
– How to automate your business so you can spend more time with family;
– The struggles business owners who are parents/carers have adapting to working remotely and how to overcome them; AND
– How to setup your business team for success right from the start!
I hope you enjoy the summit! And now for the last thing I wanted to talk to you about.
New Year, But the Same You Is Good Enough
You’re pretty great just as you are. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t exercise or eat more vegetables or whatever it is you’re thinking about doing. Just that you should pick something from a mindset of joy instead of punishment. COVID didn’t kill you. You’re a ninja! Pick a healthy thing to celebrate surviving.
And only commit to it for 48 hours. Or maybe 24 hours. Then, once you hit your goal, keep going if you want. This is how I picked up my running habit in 2014. I downloaded a couch to 5k app and promised myself that I would stop after the first 15-minute session if I hated it too much. My stretch goal was to use it three times over one week.
It’s a lot easier to try new things when you don’t invest too much time/money/emotional pressure into the whole venture. Because you might just hate running or green smoothies or that Coursera course with the fury of a thousand suns. If that happens, drop that bad boy and find something you like better. You didn’t get married to that green smoothie. It’s okay to quit it. To this day, I take bus money with me when I run so I can bail if I need to.
And for those of you who like explicit permission, I’ve made a badge you can use whenever you want:
Today is my last day at my day job. I’ve worked there for 12 years–most of my professional life. Had COVID not come along, I’d work there still. There was nothing personal about the layoff. It’s just one of those things that happened because of the pandemic.
I’ve made my peace. And I’m not the type of person that can stay sad–or at least, not only sad. This has been a tough year. I’m up to four dead relatives since April. Yet compared to many, I’ve been fortunate. Our family has enough food to eat and I’m sitting inside a warm house. There are people who love me and tell me so. I write things that people want to read.
On average, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for all the wonderful things in my life. And it’s rather poetic to end a career the day after the winter solstice. Things will literally get brighter from here on out.
And speaking of brighter things, watching footage of people getting vaccinated last week made me happy. So happy that it sent me into a dream sequence. What is a dream sequence, you ask? This thing I’m about to share with you right now. This flash fiction piece has nothing to do with remote work so if you don’t like frivolity feel free to skip to the next subheading.
Absurdist Fictional Interlude: I Dream of Vaccine-y
When it’s my turn to get the vaccine, my phone rings with the Mission Impossible theme song. A vaccinated Laurence Fishburne steps out of the bushes dressed as Morpheus and says “Get on it, my light brown sista!”
I reach for my car keys only to discover that I’m dressed in a leather duster and black combat fatigues. My hair is perfect. I slide into the window of my sportscar like a Duke of Hazard and tear out of the parking lot, Boss Hog hot my tail.
Traffic parts for me. I’m a one-woman police motorcade. Boss Hog gets stuck behind a downed taco truck, his shouts fading like cigar smoke as I speed away.
I pull right up to the steps of the clinic and flip my car keys to the vaccinated valet. We’re at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. A vaccinated nurse in 80’s workout attire hands me a form, then I jog up the stairs to the Rocky song. Despite the leather coat and months of couch-surfing, I fly up the steps like Olympian marathoner Eliud Kipchoge.
The shot burns like freedom. It opens a portal to a new location, where I’m at the head of a Soul Train line. James Brown sings Get Up Offa That Thing. Vaccinated octogenarians dressed like candy stripers boogie on either side as I dance until I feel better. This is a three-month process. At the end of the train, I get a purple wristband with the word ‘Vaccinated!’ printed in sparkles. I join a congo line of the newly vaccinated, and we dance to the nearest bar, where we cram ourselves into a karaoke room and sing until the sun goes down.
Things I’m Working On
I have two major writing projects. One of them is a book of personal essays about my time during COVID. Many of those are in first draft status. The other is the business book I talked about in my last post. I won’t have the outline done by end of the month, but I’ve decided I’m going to take a month or two to focus on the book before becoming an employee again.
This has been a big year for my writing. I submitted roughly 32 pieces out to 104 publications, and 26 of them were published. That doesn’t count writing on the blog or writing the keynote speeches I’ve given this year either. Nor the single-panel cartoons I’ve collaborated on.
This is why I keep a spreadsheet. I was feeling a little inadequate the other day–feeling like I hadn’t written as much as I wanted to write this year. But really, that’s just the inner mean voice talking. I took a look at that spreadsheet and told that voice to go take a hike. If you suffer from the same mean voice, maybe try keeping lists so you, too can throw data at it.
What’s That Douglas Up To?
I was on the Gifters Podcast in early December. This podcast asks guests to share a succinct gift with the world. We talked about remote work (for about 10 minutes), and managing interruptions from children.
I also wrote a bunch of different things, not all of which have been published yet. My fearless dog columnist Aggie is back in Good Girl, Aggie! (No3). I heard the phrase ‘twat waffle’ in a runner’s forum a few years back, and I’ve wanted to use it ever since. Aggie gave me that chance.
If 2020 has taught me anything, it’s to hug my people while I can. My kids are on winter break and my husband’s workload is light. We’re going to eat cinnamon rolls, beat the crap out of a piñata, and enjoy each other’s company. We have fake mustaches and we aren’t afraid to use them.
The next installment of the blog will come out around Thursday, January 7th. Before I take my break I want to say thanks for reading the blog. I wish good things for you. I can’t wait to see what we all do in 2021.
So technically Fall doesn’t begin until Sept 22. But if it’s September and you or someone you live with is back in school, psychologically, it’s Fall. The changing of the season is a good time to take stock of yourself and your remote work. But don’t worry–this isn’t going to be one of those checklists that assumes you have any free time or bandwidth. It’s an opportunity to reflect in whatever moments you have.
How Much Bandwidth Do You Have?
Hint: If you laughed when you read that sentence, then the answer is ‘none,’ and you are nearly done with this step. You know what you have going on in your life right now. Some of you are trying to work while virtually schooling/homeschooling your children. If that’s your situation, I have a badge for you:
The only thing left for you to do is let go of the idea that you should be able to manage your kid’s schooling (whether online or homeschooling) while killing it at work, without breaking a sweat. You aren’t a bad caregiver. You are, in fact, amazing. Full stop. No exceptions. Rock on with your bad self.
If you find yourself with more bandwidth in September, I encourage you to take some time to think about what you need more of in your life. This doesn’t have to be profound. It may be that you really just need a nap. Or, in my case, I need to work on a health issue that got pushed aside at the beginning of the pandemic. The important thing is to make sure your aspirations don’t exceed your bandwidth.
Perhaps you have enough bandwidth to help other people. That leads into the next question to ask yourself.
How Are Your Friends and Colleagues Doing?
Whether or not you have extra bandwidth, it’s good to check in with your friends and colleagues. You might not be able to do anything with the information, but at least they’ll know you care. If nothing else, you can send each other memes and other gallows humour to help you through the current craziness. A text or email that says ‘I was thinking about you. Hope things are less crazy’ can make people feel seen. This is super important when we’re all living our lives remotely.
And if you do have extra bandwidth, you might try to help. Recently, an childless acquaintance reached out to a group of us with an offer of help. She suggested something specific-that she could look stuff up on our behalf. It was a very specific and thoughtful form of support. You can also show support by being calm. Anxious, overwhelmed people can be short-tempered and rash. The biggest gift you can give someone in that moment is your forgiveness.
Do You Have Your Supply of Happy-Makers?
Covid hasn’t gone away. There will be days when our uncertain situation will weigh heavily on you. You’ll need a small cache of simple things that make you happy. For me, those things are yarn, chocolate, and books. Whenever I feel anxious I crochet hexagons. They’re simple enough that I have the pattern memorized, but interesting enough that I get a little break from whatever’s bugging me. As a bonus, I will have a hand-made blanket at some point.
As you see, this isn’t a complicated checklist. But if you take a small amount of time to check-in with yourself, your friends and family, and your supply of happy-makers, you’ll enter fall on the right foot.
Stuff I’ve Published
This week’s published writing is all comedy. Some of you might suspect that I use comedy writing to cope with the Pandemic. You would be correct. On Thursday my humorous nonfiction piece Dye-ing for Alone Time, a Henna-Made Talewent live on Sallymag. I wrote this piece in April with no idea where to place it. My writing often has humorous elements, but it was the first intentionally funny piece I’ve written for publication. This was the story that pushed me to take satire classes with The Second City.
On Tuesday I published volume 2 of Good Girl, Aggie! This is my advice column written by Aggie Green, the mascot of the comedy magazine Greener Pastures. I had no idea if other folks would like Aggie. Imagine my delight when I had messages from people I don’t know, thanking me for giving them something to laugh at. I don’t know if there will be a third Aggie column. We’ll see.
The kids started school. I’d like to say that I did a ton of stuff during the 2.5 hours that they were gone (the first day was a health and safety orientation) but I don’t believe in lying to you. I sent emails to people who were waiting on me for things. I stared at my screen and thought of nothing at all. The fact is, I’m so accustomed to being interrupted that I’ve almost forgotten what it’s like to focus. I expect I’ll get that back again if Covid case counts stay low enough in Vancouver that the kids stay in school. If I had to make a prediction, I predict that the kids come home to online school in November. So after a few days of recovery, I’m going to use the child-free time to write as much as I can.
That’s it from my neck of the woods. I’ll see you next time.
We’re in the home stretch of summer. The last few mornings of August were chilly here in Vancouver, and I’ve been trying to push off Fall through sheer force of personality. I think it worked because the first few days of September have been spectacular. Anyway that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
A Podcast, and an Article on Influence
Today’s post is going to be a short roundup of some of the things I’ve done in the past week or so. First off, I had a great time talking to the folks at Olympia Benefits about getting stuff done at your remote job. I really liked talking to Morgan, the host, because we spent some time talking about team dynamics. When most of your communications happen over text, it’s very easy to view your colleagues in a more negative light. We talked about some ways to get around that. You can also check out Olympia’s YouTube account if you would rather listen to the episode there.
I also wrote an article about building influence so you can be a force for positive change at work. To put it bluntly, if you want to make a difference inside your company, you have to be someone others listen to. In this article I talk about how to asses where you are as an influencer, and how to increase your influence.
The Kids Go Back to School Next Week
I’ve spent as much time as I can giving the kids a good end of summer. We ate popsicles and potato salad (not at the same time). We went to the beach. I read Charlotte’s Web to my son, and was there to see his face when the spider dies. My daughter read the book on her own two years ago, and I remember how puzzled she was that I would let her read something so sad. But when my son had trouble sleeping a week or so ago, she was the one that suggested the story.
It’s a bittersweet tale, and the message of joy and loss and the changing of the seasons felt apropos this week, as many of my colleagues were laid off. I’m trying to lean into the good memories I have with them. There are a lot to choose from.
We’ve been fortunate here in Vancouver. Our COVID numbers are low and the kids can go to school in person. I assume that at some point our numbers will go up, and the kids will go back to learning from home. So if you are looking for me, I’ll be the one writing at a picnic bench outside, savouring the warmth and the light.
Happy New Year friends! The last couple of weeks have been long-ish stretches of quiet time interspersed with short bursts of crazy. On January 4th we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary with a family party.
I knit and crocheted many things for the kids.
Slowly Walking Down the Hall Faster Than a Cannon Ball
In between making stuffed animals, I completed interviews for various outlets interested in remote work. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you saw the post from Digital Nomad Sage last week. Another interview came out today from Remoters. I was also on the radio with Money Matters based in Houston. I’m on the radio again next week with Drive Thru HR.
I’ve been simultaneously on vacation AND working like a maniac. I took 2 weeks off from my day job so I could relax with the kids’ during their winter break. I scheduled that time off 8 months ago, before I knew the date my book would launch. Friends, my book launched today.
I nearly spent my entire vacation working on book stuff. Launching a book resembles planning a wedding. There are a lot of moving pieces and different players that work together before the main event. My book launch to-do list runneth-ed over. (We’ll just pretend ‘runneth-ed’ is a word.)
There’s a Fine Line Between Optimism and Delusion
I planned to cram a lot of writing time into the two weeks I was off. I use the word ‘plan’ loosely here. It was more of a wish list that had nothing to do with reality. I was going to: 1) Read a lot of research on psychological safety, 2) Work out every day, 3) Write three articles about remote work, 4) Spend quality time with my kids in between 5) Planning our family party and 6) Launching my book.
Then my oldest kid got sick on the first day of winter break. Shortly thereafter the second one got sick. And the rain of Vancouver closed in. Instead of focusing on my writing, I spent the first days of winter vacation knitting on the couch in between taking care of the kids. It should have frustrated me more than it did. But the fact was, I was mentally depleted. I needed time to let my brain go fallow. So I made the last-minute decision to work in short sprints so I could spend the majority of my time lazing about with the kids.
Who Says You Have to Vow to Resolve Anything in 2020?
Taking a break is hard if you’ve been running yourself ragged. It feels weird to just do…nothing for stretches of time. At least it was for me. I am a woman of action. It’s especially hard at the beginning of the year when everyone wants to hear your New Year’s Resolutions.
But you know what? New Year’s Resolutions aren’t the boss of you. If this is where you’re at right now–mentally depleted–the best resolution might be no resolutions in 2020. Or if you can’t quite do that, consider ‘take better breaks’ as your resolution of choice. My resolutions are usually hedonistic. One year I resolved to eat awesome cookies. Several years ago I went in search of better cheese. I wasn’t going to pick a resolution at all this year, but ‘take better breaks’ is growing on me. I’m going to sit with the idea in the back of my brain for the month of January and see how I like it.
Do you make hedonistic or subversive New Year’s resolutions? I’d love to hear about them.
Greetings on the last day of 2019! Before we leave this decade and enter the ’20s, I wanted to note some of the books that influenced the way I engage with people in the remote space. This was the decade that kicked off my remote adventure, after all. What better way to send it out in style than to talk about books?
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
Before you can be a great manager, first you must learn to manage yourself. That is doubly true for managers of remote workers. So much of our employee’s experience of the company comes directly through us. Kahneman’s book changed the way I thought about trusting my gut.
From Values to Action by Harry M. Jansen
There are a couple of reasons I liked this book. First, it actually shows you how to translate the values you want to live by into action. It’s not only an idea book, but also a how-to manual. Jansen provides a framework of questions instead of a ‘one-size-fits-no one’ recipe for success. I don’t use the whole framework, but I do I try to end the day by asking myself if I’ve done everything I said I was going to do. If not, why not? If find the questions clarifying.
Platform: Get Noticed in Noisy World by Michael Hyatt
When the first iteration of my book was nearing it’s publication date, my publisher’s marketing team told me I needed to go post on Twitter every day to get the word out about my book. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Fortunately I like to research, and I found this book and the one that follows. I listened to ‘Platform’ on Audible. Hyatt read his own book, and I enjoyed his energy. This book is like your big brother giving you advice with a big shot of ‘you can do it’ cheer leading on the side.
30 Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson
If Hyatt was my cheerleader, Rachel Thompson was my coach. Her book is half the reason I didn’t send out a dozen ‘buy my book!’ tweets before giving up on Twitter entirely. Instead I’ve met many lovely people, and had enjoyable conversations. That’s what social media is supposed to be about anyway. Conversations.
Creative Quest by Questlove
I picked up ‘Creative Quest’ at an airport bookstore on a whim. I’m so glad I did. If this book had a secret subtitle, it would be ‘the working person’s guide to creativity.’ I especially love the way he describes creativity as being open to things vs digging deep inside yourself. As someone who produces researched articles pretty regularly, I am always looking for things outside of my own head to spark the next article. It was interesting seeing how Questlove’s process works.
The Remix: How to Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace by Lindsey Pollak
I was pretty excited about Pollak’s book when it came out. At Kaplan, I manage at least three different generations of people–Boomers, GenX, and Millennials. I was hoping ‘The Remix’ would provide an overview of the differences between groups, and it didn’t disappoint. It has some great ideas for communicating across different platforms, too.
In one way or another these books influenced how I interact in the remote space. Do you have any books that shaped your online identity? Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.
Most of us won’t finish December as billionaire super models. But you CAN close out the year as a hero for your employees, you clients, and yourself if you take time to do these three things.
Post Your Year End/Holiday Hours
One of the many perks of remote work is the ability to hire (and sell to) people in different parts of the world. But different countries have different traditions. The end of December is a holiday in some, but not all, parts of the world. Post your hours on your website, email/phone out-of-office message, and everywhere else your clients and colleagues may try to reach with you.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that people will remember that it’s a holiday in your country. Canada celebrates Thanksgiving a month before the United States. I’m from the US, and I work for a company primarily based in the US, and I still forget about US Thanksgiving because no one around me celebrates it. Your client in Qatar shouldn’t wonder why it’s taking you so long to respond to the email he sent on Christmas. Post your hours.
Send a Year End Message
The savvy remote worker looks for any excuse to connect with clients and colleagues. The end of the year is a great pretext to communicate with everyone in your network. Your message doesn’t have to be long or particularly masterful so long as it’s sincere. On Tuesday I sent the teachers who work with me a short email, and included this graphic I made in Canva.
It didn’t take long to put this together in Canva and add it to my email. The writer in me cringes a little at the wording–it comes across as ho-hum to my internal editor–but a sincere ho-hum message is better than no message at all, when you want to make sure people know you like working with them.
If you have more time to craft a nicer message than the one I produced, do so. But if you don’t, don’t let perfect become the enemy of good. If you like this idea but feel overwhelmed just thinking about making a meme, feel free to use mine. I won’t tell.
Choose A Year End Tradition
The first two tips in this article focus on ending the year right for your clients and colleagues. This last tip is designed to help you build a meaningful transition into the new year.
Transitions were one of the things I didn’t think about before I went remote. I am so happy that I gave up my commute. It’s given me hours back into my day. But I missed the way a commute created a natural transition into and out of work, so I had to make up my own transitions.
The end of one year and the beginning of another is a big transition. As someone who works in an office of one, it’s pretty easy to ignore it in favor of hitting the items on my to-do list.
I would suggest that taking a moment to ceremonially end your year is good for your mental health. The end of the year can be a fraught time for some. It’s all to easy to think that if you haven’t ended the year (or the decade) as a billionaire super model, or cured cancer, you must be defective. Implementing a small year-end ceremony is a nice way to commemorate what you have done, and start the new year with a clean slate.
Your ceremony doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. If you can afford to spend a week in Tahiti to clear your head, great. Personally, I need something a little more cost-efficient. So I clean my office. Cleaning isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I do like the symbolism of wiping the dust from the old year out of my office before the new year shows up. I am literally giving myself the gift of a clean start.
I spend the time remembering the things I did in the year that I’d like to do again. I think about the things I didn’t get a chance to do that I might work into the new year. And when I finish my cleaning, I say (to myself) ‘I declare this year closed.’ It’s a simple ceremony that works for me.
Life is messy, but your year end doesn’t have to be. If you keep these three tips in mind, you can close your year in an orderly fashion, and start the new one with a clean slate.
Somehow September turned into New Year’s Resolutions, Part 2. I thought this was a parent-specific thing, but I know childless people who are caught up in the ‘new school year, new you’ craziness. According to my inbox, now is the perfect time to reset my diet, take up an exercise challenge, read the latest books by my favourite authors, and start that Coursera course someone picked just for me. It’s like everyone’s high on Pumpkin Spice latte fumes.
All joking aside, I get it. Why not put away your bad habits AND your summer clothes all at the same time? It’s so efficient! Personally, I just spent the last two months working while the kids were on summer break. I’m tired. All I really want to do is enjoy the fact that someone else is legally obligated to provide an excellent learning environment for my children, at no extra cost to me.
Last year I fell for the Pumpkin Spice fumes. I joined a run challenge, bought cookbooks to help me make healthy dinners my kids would love, and tried to Amazon prime my way to a new life.
That didn’t turn out so well. I love running and cooking; the activities themselves weren’t the problem. The problem was that I added more stuff to my already crammed lifestyle without pausing to consider where I would fit them in.
This September I did something different.
I Took a Secret Vacation
It wasn’t a total secret. I want to stay employed, after all. My job knew I was taking time off. My family and friends did not. I love my family. I love my friends. But when they know I’m off, I tend to get asked to do laundry or go out to lunch. The whole point of this particular exercise was to side-step my routine and examine it from the outside.
So on Monday I got up at the usual time, went into my office at the usual time, and asked myself questions I haven’t asked in a while. What do I really want to do with my days? What should I do to go back to work feeling like I’d had a good time off? And then I sat back and waited.
I don’t know how the rest of you see the different facets of your personality. I think of mine as a committee. There’s my inner maker, who would love to spend an entire day making things. There’s my inner athlete, who prefers long sessions sweating in the great outdoors. My inner toddler wanted to go exploring. And my inner writer wanted to write things on a more forgiving deadline.
I like doing other things too. These were simply the activities that moved to the head of the queue when I thought about what I really wanted to do. Since the stakes were low (I only had to figure out two days) the committee vote came through pretty quickly. I would spend Monday reading and writing. Tuesday I would knit and walk on the beach. The goal for both days was to spend as much time as possible neither speaking nor being spoken to.
The Secret Vacation Backstory
I’ve taken secret vacations since my first child was an infant. We all have the right to say ‘I need breathing space,’ and expect the world to leave us alone for a bit. Unfortunately babies don’t work union hours. And mothers, in particular, aren’t supposed to want time away from their children. It’s pretty easy to get to a point where you’re too tired of fighting to fight for what you need. So we suck it up.
Until the day that I didn’t. One day I got dressed for work and dropped my daughter at daycare. Then instead of going to work I drove to the beach and called in sick. I didn’t do much. I walked for a long time. My favorite yarn store in LA was six blocks from that beach, so I went and knit at their big wood table. I bought an early dinner. And then I went back to the daycare at the usual time and took my child home.
All together I played hooky for six hours. It was life changing. I went home better able to deal with new motherhood, a demanding job, and the fallout from the 2009 recession. Best of all, I didn’t have to fight anyone for the respite because no one knew I’d taken it.
It was my little secret. And I knew I would do it again.
The Power of a Small, Sneaky Escape
Some people walk the Appalachian Trail in an effort to find themselves. But you can reap the same benefits on a smaller scale with a secret vacation. There’s something powerful about asking yourself what you really want to do with your time and waiting for the answer. It almost doesn’t matter how much time you set aside. Reserving–and enforcing–a breathing space is an empowering act.
Plus, keeping things small means you can do it more often. If it’s been a long time since you’ve done the things you really want to do, your inner committee might resemble the mob outside Walmart on Thanksgiving. Every one of your interests will try to out-shout the others when you’re starved for free time. If you plan regular escapes, the committee settles down. Your true priorities emerge. You leave your vacation time with a better sense of what recharges you. And that right there is snack-sized self reflection.
Third, sneaking out of your life prevents you from spending your free time doing the soul-sucking things you “should” do. Nobody can know you’re off. They’ll figure it out for sure if your kitchen floor goes from grimy to gleaming in an afternoon. Therefore, for operational secrecy, you need to leave that floor alone.
People Think My Vacations Are Weird But Really They’re Awesome
I (usually) tell my husband about my secret vacations after they’re over. Mostly he’s bemused by the whole idea. Others look at me like I’m crazy when they find out. But for me, these little interludes are (metaphorically speaking) how I put the oxygen mask on my own face first before helping anyone else. On Wednesday I dove back into my usual schedule. I didn’t have a new life, but I definitely felt like a new me.
If you’re feeling like you need a change, maybe what you really need is a secret vacation. Give it a try. The sanity you save might just be your own.
Change isn’t going away so let’s get good at dealing with it.
The era of the job for life ended before my generation joined the workforce. Most of us know that our employment situation could change with little warning. Maybe it was the recent layoffs at Buzzfeed and Huffington Post, or the government shutdown in the U.S., but I’ve been thinking about how the average person can get better at dealing with change.
I don’t pretend to have the definitive answer to how to do this. I DO have an approach. I call it riding the chaos wave. There have been long stretches of my professional life where my role, my boss, and my entire company structure has changed every few months. This is how I surf the wave.
My goal in any new role is to start functioning nearly autonomously by the end of the first week. Some people drink and know things–I talk to people, read, and write stuff down. This is how I learn.
You may learn a different way. Figure out what works for you. Learning how you learn can make change less scary. You may not know everything now, but you will have confidence in your ability to succeed in your new situation.
Don’t Take the Drama Personally
Everyone around you is anxious. It has nothing to do with you. It will look personal because people will question your decisions. They may even act resentful or cold.
For me, it helps to pretend that I’m wearing my ‘newbie’ hat and that people are reacting to it, not me. Remember that the person who keeps a cool head the longest, wins.
Do Take Time to Grieve
Most job changes and restructurings mean losing things and people you like. Give yourself time to process your feelings. Think of your grief as a forest fire–it’s better to hold a controlled burn.
I am not a therapist or a mental health expert. I do know that going for a run helps me process many things. Find what works for you.
Make New Connections
This one can be hard if you’re grieving. Or perhaps your company has gone through so many changes that you’re burned out on change. You may also have some survivor guilt if you kept your job when others didn’t.
Make connections anyway. I have never, in the history of ever, learned how to excel in a job by reading the company manual and doing exactly what I was told. In my experience you get the real scoop from the people around you. Even if everyone else thinks they’re clueless, you can start to get a sense of the bigger picture by putting together the little bits everyone knows.
Change is Like Coffee
It’s an acquired taste. I don’t like losing coworkers. I do like learning new things, and pursuing new challenges. If you can’t stop change, then it makes sense to try to find something to enjoy about it along the way, even if you have to do the metaphorical equivalent of dumping a metric ton of cream and sugar into your change cup before you choke it down. Do this often enough, and change may not taste so bitter.
Change is Also a Chaos Wave
It can come at you from any direction, and if you stand still it will crash into you. I believe that each one of us can learn the skills to ride the wave instead. This is my approach to riding the wave. Do you have a similar or different approach for dealing with change? I’d love to hear about it.