Today, I had forgotten that my company, Atmos, was observing New Year’s Day – an unexpected day off. It felt a little like a snow day back when I was a kid, but there was one big difference: I wanted to be productive. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with taking time off to relax, but I was a little stressed thinking about how to downshift. There were a few things weighing on me.
Firstly, between stressful travel for the holidays, seeing family, and more, the days I hadn’t taken off between Christmas and New Year’s felt less productive than I wanted. Many folks take that time off, so internal communications were slower and my industry as a whole was less active than usual. I was ready to get after it on Jan 2, but now I have to wait until the 3rd. This was more difficult than I had thought it would be.
Secondly, as a leader and a manager, I needed to set an example for others in my company and for my direct reports. You need to take time off and really unplug to keep your sanity. It would have set a bad expectation if my colleagues saw that I was online the whole time, working as usual, on a company-wide observed holiday.
Finally, I had language lessons at my usual time – meaning I had to wake up early anyway as if it were a regular Monday. All of these things were factors in how I was going to approach my day.
I’ll be honest, the first hour or two, I acted much in the same way as I usually would have. I spend time chatting with community members in our discord in addition to other tasks. My mind was working to think about how to take the information from the community to build exciting content and (more importantly) better understand how our community works. Even in Slack, I sent a few articles that I read off of LinkedIn in case people were a little confused with how to spend the day off like me.
But then that second point from before really started to sink in – I needed to be a better example for my colleagues. What if they hadn’t silenced notifications on Slack? My pinging could’ve interrupted their day off, or worse, made them feel as if they weren’t being sufficiently productive. I needed to stay away from my office.
I decided to compromise. A walk around the block while listening to a podcast about my industry and thinking about how I could start to help build the data consultancy my friends and I recently incorporated. The new venture is something I’ll only be able to devote my spare time to, but it’s something I want to support my friends by doing the best I can.
That walk was amazing. It hit on a number of the resolutions I set for myself this year and met my needs for both time away from the primary job on my unexpected day off and my need to feel productive. Hell, it even led me to write this post, which also satisfies one of the ongoing resolutions for the year.
The point I’m trying to make, I suppose, is that time spent on something else worthwhile is often just as good as doing nothing. It’s not a binary productive/not productive even when one isn’t working for their primary income source. Sometimes, you can just take a walk.