I recently took my own work/life balance advice, and went on vacation to Central Oregon. Amidst the splendors of Mt. Hood, Mt. Washington, and the obsidian lava flow at Newberry Crater, I thought how Nature must just chuckle at humankind's industrious existence! In this region of the United States we are, of course, only one big earthquake, volcanic eruption, or wildfire away from disaster. Known as part of the global Ring of Fire, the Pacific Northwest helps to remind us of the vulnerabilities of our species and how small we really are in the grand scheme of the earth's geology.
And that reminder is the beauty of a vacation. Taking time off from work and placing ourselves in a different environment allows us to see the bigger picture of our lives and the larger context in which we operate. Sometimes we get so engulfed in the minutiae of our daily lives that we really can't see, in this case, the "evergreen forest through the trees."
As I drove Route 26 north through the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, with its high desert climate on the south side and lush forests on the north side, I found myself gradually letting go of little irritating thoughts about proposals I hadn't finished, clients who hadn't called back, laundry that didn't get done, and friends who hadn't responded to my Facebook posts. I took a deep breath and said to myself, "In 5 years, will any of that really matter?" Hooray! I had found perspective.
Not long after that thought, I suddenly had some ideas for new seminars for my audiences. I'm self-employed as a professional speaker and most of my topics revolve around work/life balance issues and leadership. Many of my clients are architects and designers. Their industry is extremely cutting edge, creative, intense, and competitive. In my pre-seminar surveys on their work/life challenges, I am shocked to discover not only how few employees take a vacation, but also of the number who plan a vacation and then have to cancel it because of their companies' unrealistic project or client deadlines.
Respondents to my surveys indicate that they actually felt worse about canceling a planned vacation than not having one at all in the first place! The architecture and design industry is particularly dependent on superb creativity, problem-solving and innovation for the future.
For these workers, creativity IS their "product." Clients and employers depend upon designers and architects to resolve design challenges. Vacations play a critical role in helping workers take the necessary downtime to replenish and nurture their creativity. Time-off ensures that they regain not only a larger perspective on their work, but also inspiration for new design ideas and solutions. Vacations are an antidote against mediocre results in the workplace.
As I complete my 750-mile road trip, I'm re-energized to continue sharing my work/life balance tools and strategies with corporate America and encouraging everyone to replenish their creativity and take a vacation at least once a year!
Liesbet Trappenburg lives in Seattle and is a former burned-out corporate VP who now speaks on work/life balance, intuitive leadership, and authentic branding topics. www.WindmillWorldwide.com.