I feel like I’ve been having this conversation in a few different places of late. Partially because over the Summer many workplaces do mid-year reviews or mid-year goal setting, and there are discussions about career goals and the like. Partially, it’s because many of us who made vacation plans for 2021 expecting it to be so very different than 2020 have had that idea squashed, and partially because the world is what the world is right now.
The conversation usually goes something like this:
I don’t really know what my goals are. I haven’t thought about it. I haven’t made plans for how to get to those goals over the next 2-3 years. I’m just too busy dealing with what is in front of me.
And, yes, I have been the one saying those exact words too. Because it’s true. We’re still dealing with COVID down here in Louisiana in a big way, and now we’re still dealing with a hurricane disaster. Add on top all the various stress that comes from friends and family, and our own lives, and a pretty busy, stressful, workload, and how much mental capacity do you think I have to think about career goals? Just dealing with what is on our plate every single day, is enough. Some days it’s more than enough. There just isn’t the space for those kinds of thoughts right now.
I know many of you could say the same, heck some of you are dealing with more “stuff” in front of you than I am, and I don’t know how anyone is expecting you to have the spare cycles to consider your 5-year career plan, right?
This is why this post about lawyers and PTO rang a bell with me. Especially this part, because we all know the PTO we wanted to take, might not actually be happening, but we still need to take it.
Everything is prepared for your PTO — but you don’t feel comfortable going on a big trip. While the limitations of COVID-19 on vacations can be disappointing, remember that the most important outcome is returning to work refreshed and relaxed, no matter how you use those days.
Allow yourself some activities you normally would consider an indulgence, from passing an afternoon on the couch watching movies to baking a favorite treat. Take an extended walk around your city or a forest preserve, paying close attention to the details you’d normally overlook. Or spend time volunteering and reconnecting with your community — after all, they’re the very people your practice supports.
Action item: Feel better with a goal in mind? Set an intention for your PTO. Maybe you want to step away from all electronics for a few days, try a new hobby with your kids or finish reading the novel next to your bed.
Let’s face it, we all have things that we haven’t had space for in the last couple of years. If you are holding off on using PTO because you can’t make the big travel adventure happen right now, why not use that time to create that space? Personally, we had a couple of weeks in October scheduled for an anniversary trip overseas that has since been canceled. I haven’t canceled the PTO for one simple reason, I still want to use those 2 weeks to create the space, mentally, to do some of the things I’ve been too busy to do, like figure out where I actually want my career to go instead of just doing the work that’s in front of me, or indulge in some of those hobbies that have fallen by the wayside, or maybe even try and catch up with some friends virtually.
We all need that space, and it keeps getting harder and harder to find it. There’s nothing wrong with doing the work that is in front of us, professionally and personally. Frankly, if you can keep going and getting those things done in this environment, you are to be commended. On the other hand, just doing that prevents us from making changes and doing things differently. It keeps us stuck, and I know far too many people who are stuck right now, waiting for the space to make changes.
Make that space, any way you can. Give yourself the PTO you deserve.