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Consecutive time off > time off in pieces

Hello everyone! I’m back! 

Really actually missed writing these Notes, come to think of it. I like the routine and pattern, and I love the thoughtful replies I get and the good conversations it starts. 

Being off for three whole weeks, consecutively, has shown me a few things. Chief of which is that taking time off consecutively is SO much more powerful than taking the same amount of time, broken up into pieces. 

Now, I know not everyone can take that much time - right now, or at all. There are seasons in life and seasons in business and the good Lord knows we’re all in a bizarro season of the 2020 apocalypse. But. That being said, I want to encourage you of the power of consecutive days off or weeks off - whatever you can manage - because it is vastly different than taking a day off (or an afternoon or morning off) here and there. 

Here’s how mine went: 

Day 1: Gosh, I’m so tired. That’s understandable. I’ll relax and watch some netflix and take it easy. 

Day 2: Hm. Still really exhausted. Kind of bored actually. I’ll be in trouble with the team if I do any work - I told them not to let me. What do I do??? I’m bored of netflix too. Feel kind of annoyed. Some of my plans are falling through, classic 2020.

Day 3: THIS HOLIDAY SUCKS. (literally texted that to one of my team when they cheerfully asked how it was going, haha). Nothing is working out the way i planned and quite frankly I just want to go back to work. 
(Note: this was the day I did actually give in and ended up writing a nearly 6,000 word blog post. I just couldn’t take it anymore. I didn’t even save it on our Gdrive in case the team saw it. Obsessive-compulsive-blogging. I didn’t publish it - just got it out of my system.)

Day 4: Still pretty tired - more so than I expected. Still trying to make things work and get a last minute cottage on the Isle of Mull, but nothing is available because I left it too long.

Day 5: Managed to go a walk and do some house work and shopping… and now i’m exhausted again. Had plans to hang out with friends but i don’t think I can make it. In bed by 7pm.

Day 6: Starting to feel some better. Went to the beach with friends and played with shells and walked on the sand and had dinner with them. Good, relaxed, pleasant time. Made plans with a friend to go up to Glenfinnan, one of my favourite places on the mainland.

Day 7: Beginning to lose all sense of time. Starting to feel relaxed. Reading books.

Day 8: day trip to Glenfinnan, hiking, road tripping. Good fun. Refreshing. Beautiful weather. 

Day 9: recover from all the excitement of previous day. Reading more books.

Day 10: Woke up early and went up north into the Highlands and hiked the Lost Valley of Glencoe. Been meaning to do it for … ever, it feels like. One of the best hikes I’ve ever done. Beautiful. Hard. Refreshing. Quiet.

Day 11: train down to London. Wasn’t going to go (a lot of things changed in the plans), but decided it would be good to HAVE plans, such as they were. Read a book on the way down, wrote some handwritten letters. 

Day 12: Spent the day at the Harry Potter studios in London, and then met up with a team member & a client for drinks at a local pub. Brilliant day. Felt like I had all the time in the world. 

Day 13: Decided to stick around in London another day, cos why not. Wandered into the city. Went back to the Harry Potter studios for round two. Stayed up til 3am having deep conversations with one of my best friends. 

Day 14: train back home, resting, watching church online, finishing a few more books.

Day 15: surprisingly worn out. How can I be worn out? All i did was… oh. Take a train to London for the first time in six months. Take the tube, an Uber, go to the HP studios twice in two days, stay up til the wee hours of the morning, take the train again back to Scotland… yea that’s a lot for a first proper trip down south since lockdown started. 

Days 16-18: no idea. More reading. Finished off a few Netflix and Prime series I’d been working through. 

Day 19: walk with some friends and their children, then a longer walk up in Perthshire to another place I’ve been meaning to hike for ages (the Hermitage Bridge). Glorious. Feel like autumn is coming. 

Day 20: talked to different members of the family in America all day, read some books, wrote some more letters, watched a Harry Potter film, drank tea. Poured rain all day. 

Day 21: went to in-person church for the first time since March. Really enjoyed it in spite of feeling a little anxious about how different it would be. Had lunch with the friends in my ‘bubble’. Slept. 

That was it. That was three weeks of a holiday like I’d never taken one before. I realised for the first time in probably twenty years I actually took a holiday where I didn’t “go anywhere”, didn’t go to America (because I can’t), didn’t book out a cottage (because I was tired and forgot and by the time I tried they were all full), didn’t plan much at all. 

I sort of naively thought I’d spend the whole time jaunting off different places and visiting friends, but didn’t quite calculate the amount of time needed for …

..recovery. 

Rest. 

Processing.

Thinking.

Sleeping. (SO, so much sleeping.)

It’s been a long, long, hard six months - and I’m beginning to accept (as many of us are) that this is just the start. We aren’t going back to ways we were used to, although there’s a lot we can do and some progress which has been made, and I insist on staying grateful for all I have. And focusing on the positives whilst still being honest enough to be sad and grieve lost things and be angry and frustrated and tired sometimes. 

I took the three weeks for a variety of reasons. I had booked three weeks in America with the family, and had worked for months to block those three weeks out, arranging and rearranging meetings and courses and new team members starting so I could be off. When I discovered I wasn’t going to be able to go to America, I briefly considered just filling them up again, but then I thought it might be a good idea to have a holiday at home. 

It was hard - much, much harder than I thought it would be. I genuinely considered going back to work early, but it helped so much that I had prepared the team, and they were ready with encouragements (or downright commands) to not work and to go back to resting. I ended up texting and talking to most of them throughout the three weeks, but just about life things and funny things and how they were doing as humans. They honoured my time off by not telling me about work things and just sorting it all out themselves (including a slew of victories and signed quotes and new clients on my return). 

One of my favourites was texting Jamie, one of our team in the States, saying this holiday sucks, and nothing is working out as I planned, and lots of things are getting cancelled still, and i’m really thinking about giving up and coming back early. She said well, you could do that. Or, you could power through and see what you learn. 

It feels weird to “power through” on a holiday, but I am so grateful I did. 

I needed to be bored. To be angry, to be sad, to be frustrated, to think about what i have and what I don’t have. To process all the crap and all the good things 2020 has given thus far, and to believe there is purpose in it and growth. 

And my business needed it, too. I’ve been running PF for 8 years, and in the past year we’ve made significant progress in having things run without me, because it’s been a life goal of mine. Two years ago I took a full week off, and the team made it through pretty well. Last year I took two full weeks off, and things went a little better and we spotted new things to fix or work on. This year I took three full weeks off, and I was blown away how smoothly things went, overall. Next year I’ll take four full weeks off, and if the virus lets me I’ll go to New Zealand, where I’ve always wanted to visit and hike and travel and oooh and ahhh. 

I would not have achieved all that if I’d only taken a few days. I wouldn’t have achieved it if I’d gone back early. I needed the consecutive time. 

We’re all at different stages as business owners - some of you are just starting, some have had a really tough time, some are in the midst of hiring. Sometimes it feels like you can’t take much time - but sometimes that’s just a fear. A doubt, or even an addiction. 

I love my work. I can work all day, every day, and at weekends, no problem. There is never a lack of work to do. And I have been SO grateful for it during lockdown. 

But work can also be a distraction - from what we need to process, from boredom, from fear, from grief -  from whatever it is we’re avoiding.

And the number one way to actually process through it is to determine to take that consecutive time - whether it’s one day or five days or three weeks - and stick to it. Relentlessly. Even if it feels like it sucks for a while. To learn things about yourself, about your team, about your business, about the world. 

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