I woke up early this morning unable to get comfortable. As far along as I am with my pregnancy, I have to sleep on my side, which I did at times before, but oh how I miss sleeping on my back when I want to! Between constantly getting up to pee, and then trying to get comfortable again amidst the pillows that surround me, it is no wonder I only get one hour increments of sleep at a time. Poor Chris — he usually wakes up every time I do, although he does not have to get out of bed, readjust, and hope his feet do not get cold in the process.
In any case, this morning I woke up way before it was time to get up and lay snuggled in with my pillows, knowing I should get up to pee, but not wanting to move. My mind started to wander and develop ideas for the day, and the first thought that came to me was: “When do we really get quiet enough to really think?” I know nothing ground breaking, but for me it was a bit of an aha moment. We often get up thinking about everything we need to accomplish in our day and laying in bed longer is cannibalizing the minutes needed to accomplish the many tasks set before us. Are we really thinking during that time though? Are we really pondering our life and wondering if are we going down the yellow brick road that is meant for us? Or do we know it so well, we do not question if it is the right one?
As we endeavor to move through our day, we go from deadline, to appointment, to other engagements, ending up at home with a list of items to accomplish, and if we decide to veg out, it is usually in a way that still does not allow us to be quiet. My hunch is that for most of us the deep quiet never comes. Instead we decide to put another load of laundry in, respond to that email, or organize what needs to happen for the next day, and if we are lucky, when our head hits the pillow we fall fast asleep after a good full day. Every once in a while we might be able to quiet our minds before falling asleep. If I had my choice, I would rather wake up with my thoughts quiet enough, as often when it happens as you fall asleep you never remember the quiet voice speaking to you.
I want to start bringing the quiet into my days — even if just for a few moments where I can check and adjust. I want to ask myself if I am going down the right road that day, and if I am, what do I need to do to be quiet at some point in my day. To truly listen and hear that quiet voice remind my why I am on this road, and what I need to do next.
Americans, we have a problem. We do not know how to stop. I am one of the biggest offenders. We do not know how to truly go on vacation. This CNN article from last fall “Americans taking fewest vacation days in four decades” is quite scary. In 2013 Americans were only taking an average of 16 days off a year (about 3 weeks). For someone who has not been at my company long enough to accrue a large number of hours that does not seem so bad, but when you compare it to the average of other countries where Austria has 35 days a year (7 weeks of vacation or almost 2 months).
This is not a new topic, but it is one that I think as Americans we need to constantly revisit. Why do we give up our vacation? Why do we check into work while we are supposed to be relaxing and recouping from our day-to-day world? Some folks want to show their commitment to their jobs and company (I do not have that problem, my commitment shows regardless if I take some time off). Others might be addicted to the buzz of the distraction. My reason? It takes to damn long to catch up on emails and work when you get back from vacation. You need a vacation to catch up after being on vacation. Often it is easier to keep your inbox cleaned up, clear out the junk for a bit of time while you are away. So maybe I have a problem.
When start-ups and tech companies are granting unlimited vacation I think — amazing! Yet, then I also wonder, will you have so much work and feel so strapped to get shit done, that you never take it? Having never worked for a company with an unlimited vacation policy, how do they make sure folks play fair and use the time in a balanced way? Have we become over productive as a society? Or is the rise of unlimited vacation policies a way for companies to have their employees work hard and play hard. It has to be much hard to manage when a company grows to the thousands to hundreds of thousands. Does it only work for smaller companies? How would such a policy feel to you?
I am worried about myself and my fellow Americans. Do we take enough time for our spouse? Our kids? Our larger family? Do we explore new cultures? Do we go and sit our butts on a sandy beach and fall asleep never worrying what is happening back at work? Or do we go on vacation and constantly check in? Never turning off our mobile devices and never truly focused on the rest we so grossly deserve. America needs an intervention!
This video from Visa, while an ad to go and spend money on your Visa card is spot on.