At our last Senior Leaders' Forum, the head of my department spoke at length about mental health issues and more specifically, the need to take vacation. Her point centered on the fact that just because we might not have somewhere luxurious to jet off to, the benefits of simply stepping away from work are crucial to our emotional and mental health, which ultimately feed directly into our productivity.
I found her passion for this topic to be both infectious and inspiring, so I used it as a springboard to take some time away from the office for myself. In preparation for my mini-vacation, I researched some local day-trips and made arrangements for a few additional hours of babysitting so we weren't tied down to my youngest's nap schedule. It was shaping up to be a good week with so many activities planed.
A few days later I received an email from my eldest's soccer program that they'd received approval to hold a clinic and that quite a few of his teammates would be signing up; of course he wanted to participate and of course we agreed. While the clinic was only two hours, it was scheduled smack in the middle of the day between 1130 and 130, making any day-trips I'd planned out of the question. To make matters worse, construction on the roads made the 40 minute round-trip more like 90 minutes. At this point, it would've been extremely easy to cancel the time off in favor of work, but instead I decided to make use of the peace and quiet. I mean, it's not often I find myself alone at the wheel with no distractions and nowhere to be.
Yes, I could easily have spent the time in the car enjoying the sounds of silence, but I had a backlog of Podcasts downloaded that were far too interesting to ignore. I had so many episodes and topics to choose from because every time I received a recommendation, I immediately hit the "subscribe" button with the intention of joining the audience; the only trouble is, I could never find the time to listen......Until now!
Once I got started I was totally hooked. Every episode made me feel as if I was part of the conversation, not only was I listening to the content, but I was actually absorbing it. I picked up something new with every session; things that not only sounded good in theory, but that I felt I could apply to my personal and professional landscapes. It didn’t matter that I was alone in the car playing the role of chauffeur because I was totally switched off from work; I didn't for a second think about what I was missing out on or what I could be doing. For the first time in as long as I could remember my mind was clear and I was fully present; it was a real pleasure to listen and learn from those amazing guests and hosts. I'll even let you in on a little secret: on more than one occasion during the week, I stayed in the car after arriving home just to finish the episode I'd been listening to.
In case you were interested in the podcasts I was listening to, here's a few of my favorites: SWITCHing the Narrative, Working Wife, Happy Life, Taking Her Lead, and How I Built This Guy Raz. In total, I managed to get through nine or ten complete episodes, but there are still so many more left on the playlist; it's really quite amazing how much free content is available to us by simply opening our preferred podcast app and running a quick search.
So, if you have nowhere to go and nothing to do, please don’t let that stop you from taking time off. The benefit of stepping away from your day-to-day life in order to recharge your batteries is extremely beneficial for your overall wellbeing. You don’t need to go to elaborate places or have plans for every second of the day, you can simply sit back with as little as your phone and immerse yourself in a world of free educational content from the comfort of your own home, or in my case, my car.