Vacation Ideas for the Work Martyr

In my last post, I looked at the concept of a work martyr and the data that shows how prevalent martyrdom is. If you want to escape the trap of becoming a work martyr, summer is the perfect time. Take a vacation!

No really, it is time to take a vacation.

A REAL vacation.

It is often too tempting for us to say we are going to get away, but then to check email and get sucked back into the work mindset. In order to recharge and to let your team know that they can survive without you, it is crucial to get a real break.

Taking a REAL vacation, does not have to mean spending a lot of money. In fact, it doesn’t even have to involve leaving home. It just requires dedication to switching your brain over to travel and exploration mode.

A few suggestions:

Itinerary One: Little Money and Limited Time

What is travel, really? A chance to break out of your usual bubble and experience other cultures and places? The good news is that you can do that within your own city or region. Each of us have the same old, same old places that we go in our town. We have parts of town that we have never been to.

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Zuni Dancers at the Zuni Festival at Museum of Northern Arizona

Try these:

  • Check travel apps for your area (Trip Advisor or Yelp for example) and see what the Top 5 destinations are in your City. Have you visited all of them? If not, go see what everyone is raving about.
  • Visit a religious service from a religion that you are not a member of. Not sure how to find one? Just go to maps.google.com and search for “worship”. You will find all the local listings and when you click on the name of place, the contact information will pop up.
  • Look in the local community calendar for cultural opportunities. Is there a parade or dances? Here in Flagstaff, I have been to cultural festivals, watched military parades, visited science lectures, and celebrated business openings. Every weekend there is something new to experience.
  • Get outside! Better yet, get outside with a camera. Anytime I have a camera in my hands, I notice something new and see the beauty in my surroundings. Even if I am just walking around my own yard, I will have a new appreciation for the everyday beauty.
  • Think of an ingredient that you like and then google that ingredient + “recipe”. Pick a recipe that you have never tried. Next, go to a different grocery store than you usually visit to pick out the ingredients. Make the recipe for you or you and a friend and dress up for dinner. Pull a nice outfit out of the back of your closet. Perhaps set up the meal outside or set up a table in the living room for different scenery.
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Tulips in my yard

Itinerary Two: Limited Money but More Time

Immerse yourself in nature. Through backpacking, bikepacking, bike touring, or an extended boating trip, you can quickly get away from the hustle of everyday life and experience digital detox. If you are not an experienced outdoors person, I recommend checking out REI or another outdoor outfitter near you. They have free classes as well as packing checklists. Backpacking, while physically difficult, is the cheapest way to get outdoors. You can pull together the minimal gear for very cheap. There is no need to hike far on your first trip. As long as you walk to a point at which you can no longer hear the sound of traffic, you will experience the beauty and blissful contentment of living outdoors.

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The Colorado River, “Diamond Down” section

Itinerary Three: More Money (and possibly Time)

Leave the country, or at least your culture.

When you visit a place where the people there speak a different language, dress differently, or act differently, it immediately breaks your day to day doldrums. If you find yourself thinking, “we are not in Kansas anymore Toto”, then you have successfully gotten out! It is much easier to not think about work when you are in a completely different reality.

If you are near a border, then this is much easier and cheaper to get away. If you are not near a border and if you can not afford to fly overseas or get a passport, consider a getaway to an American Indian nation. In Flagstaff we are close to several tribes and most of them welcome tourists. For example, the Hopi Nation has a hotel and cultural center and leads tours of the historic Hopi villages and cultural sites. Since these tribes are sovereign nations, it is an opportunity to visit a different nation within the United States.

If you can afford an international flight – GO! I have really enjoyed getting to visit other countries and I always come back with a new perspective.

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Urique Village in Mexico — We drove down to Copper Canyon (Barrancas del Cobre) for a week-long getaway a few years ago

Vacation Series – Are You a Work Martyr?

“How many of you have vacation days you haven’t used that you are at risk of losing?” – About one third of the room put their hands up.

What???

I was dumbfounded when Julie Lancaster asked this question at a training we co-taught for City employees last month. I did not realize this was a question that needed to be asked. Now I am fascinated by it.

To clarify, these City employees have paid vacation leave that they have not used. They can roll over vacation days to the next year, but in this case, these employees have rolled over so many that they are reaching the limit and they will start losing the days if they do not use them.

Why aren’t employees using paid vacation leave? And who is not using paid vacation?

First, all the employees who raised their hands were baby boomers. Partly this is just math. In most cases, the baby boomer staff have been there longer and are more likely therefore to have years of rolled over leave. However, recent data suggests that younger generations are more likely to use their paid leave than older generations. This was a hot topic at the International City and County Managers Regional Summit. For some cities it is changing the way that work is scheduled and the number of staff needed to get work done.

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Stopping to smell the roses at one of my favorite getaways, La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, AZ

There is conflicting data about the trends in how workers view their vacation days. Project Time Off (funded by the travel industry) has hired survey firms to track employees attitudes towards paid vacation. In 2016 the survey found that 39% of employees want to be seen as a “work martyr” by their boss.

Work Martyr is defined as:

The belief that it is difficult to take vacation because…

No one else at my company can do the work while I’m away.
I want to show complete dedication to my company and job.
I don’t want others to think I am replaceable.
I feel guilty for using my paid time off.

These beliefs echo what the City employees discussed in training.

Surprisingly, the 2016 survey found that 48% of Millennials think it is good to be seen as a work martyr by their boss. In another study (conducted by Alamo Rent-A-Car), 42% of Millennials surveyed admitted to shaming their co-workers for using vacation. Although some of this can be explained by Millennials still being new in their careers and being job insecure, the article also points out that Millennials are the first generation to enter the workforce during a decline in vacation usage. As digital natives, this generation is also more likely to stay plugged in during their time off and may not even know how to unplug.

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My digital detox — going to destinations without cell phone signal, such as this one – the bottom of Urique Canyon in Mexico

Never being able to unplug and unwind is taking its toll on older Millennials and there are businesses emerging to address this. One of my favorites is Camp Grounded, a summer camp for adults that brands itself as digital detox. Millennial expert and author of The Quarter Life Breakthrough, Smiley Poswolsky, just got back from two weeks at the camp. He expressed a sense of rejuvenation, sharing, “We write 300-page books about the key to happiness, fulfillment and joy, but the thing that always seems to actually work for me is about as simple as it gets: just spend more time face-to-face with the people you love most.”

Connecting with other humans; A simple concept and yet so difficult to do.

How do you reset and recharge? Do you feel shame or guilt in taking vacation?

 

I plan to continue this Vacation Series with a post about great vacation ideas for the workaholic as well as suggestions on how to prepare before a vacation to minimize the impact on your team and on your inbox. If you have other vacation related posts you would like to see, add a comment below.

How a Leader Allows People To Figure Things Out

Our director, Patricia McKee opened her reflection on the dress rehearsal with, “I saw new things on stage tonight, which means you are starting to play. Excellent!” The actors have been rehearsing for seven weeks. Opening night is in three days. The show is finally really coming together. If you have ever been part of a theater production you know the tension of opening week. The dedication and repetition of almost daily rehearsals; learning lines, assembling props, choreographing set changes, adding blocking. It all comes down to opening night.

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How does a director prepare and manage the actors in order to achieve an excellent performance by opening night?

The parallels between directing a show and managing a team in a workplace environment are illuminating. Two weeks ago, I was training managers at the local city government in how to coach and guide employees towards success. It is so difficult to act as a guide. You know the answers. You know the best way of doing it. It would be faster if you just did it yourself! And yet, by allowing an employee to try (and fail), the employee is able to own the problem and own the solution. We have all heard the importance of learning through doing or teaching a man to fish. However, I believe there is a deeper jujitsu happening.

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Let me explain by going back to the theater metaphor. Before we ever cast the actors for The Graduate, our director, Patricia McKee had to develop a vision for the show. She could see the movement of the actors, the motivation for each character, the pacing of the scenes. Once actors were cast, they began with reading their lines and discussing their character’s motivation. Next, actors begin to get into the space, moving around each scene to feel how the lines fit with movement. Then we introduce props and furniture and allow the actors to continue to change their movements to fit the actual setting. Finally, costumes and lights are added and each scene is fine tuned.

Although the director knows from the very beginning how she wants a scene to look, she lets each actor discover that vision for themselves. For example, an actor may realize that their character wants to jump out of bed instead of just stepping out. In some cases, through this process of discovery the actor brings new ideas or a new interpretation to the scene that the director had not considered. However, many of the movements or emphasis on certain words had already been visualized by the director. By allowing the actor to come to the same conclusion on his own, those decisions are more rooted in the actor’s experience. The actor owns the problem and the solution.

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The director guides the actors by giving them an exercise to try or asking them questions. She nudges them towards the vision. With this approach, magic can happen. Not only do actors buy into the vision of the director and discover it for themselves, but new ideas and creativity are enabled to flourish.

A theatrical production is the ultimate team effort. In a show like The Graduate, we have nine actors and a backstage crew of several people. Although each show begins with the playwrights words and the director’s vision, it comes alive through the whole hearted effort of every member of the team.

How amazing could your workplace be if every member of your team was guided, nudged, and empowered rather than managed? If each person was enabled to own the problem as well as the solution?

 

For those in Flagstaff, The Graduate opens this Friday, June 2nd. I am the Stage Manager for the production.

Performances will be held at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays from June 2-18. Individual tickets for the June 2 opening performance are $20 to $24 and include a post-show reception with the cast. Seating for other performances range from $18 to $21. A special “First Friday” pre-show reception on June 2 will feature free refreshments and artwork in the lobby.

Tickets can be purchased online at Theatrikos.com; by calling (928) 774-1662; or by visiting the theater’s box office, which is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and two hours prior to each performance.

 

Being Ok With Being Beginner

Trying to encourage a cyclist at the Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike camp, I revealed to her that I struggled so much with learning to mountain bike that I went to therapy.

I told the therapist, I am here to talk about how frustrated I get when I go mountain biking. The therapist thought it was her lucky day; “This is going to be easy.”

She told me, “mountain biking is a choice, if it frustrates you so much, then don’t do it”. She smiled and I imagined her rubbing her hands together, thinking, “whew, that was an easy one”.

I persisted. “I want to work on this. I don’t want to have an activity that is supposed to be fun make me hate myself.”

With that, we got to work.

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Coach Roina instructing beginner cyclists at camp

I relayed the exchange to the beginner cyclist and she nodded with a deep knowing. She and I shared an overachieving personality and a tendency to beat ourselves up for being a beginner. As hard as it was on a hot day after falling off her bike onto the rocky trail, she got back on and persisted. She was not having fun yet, but she was not giving up either. I hoped that she could embrace the role of the beginner and be kind to herself, but I know from experience that is far easier said than done.

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A camper embracing new skill development rolling off an obstacle

One of the greatest challenges to becoming our best selves is overcoming our limiting beliefs. Jenean Perelstein writes about this in her new book, Finding Your Lighthouse. When I started mountain biking, every time I stumbled I took that as evidence that I could not ride a bike. I was limited from the very beginning with doubt and a self defeating view of my own athletic abilities. What changed for me was giving myself the gift of being a beginner. When I began thinking of myself as a beginner who was learning to ride a bike, the same behaviors – stumbling, falling, stopping on a steep hill, became evidence that I was working hard at learning a new skill. Each time I would get back up after falling I trained myself to think, “wow, you have grit!”. I also normalized the learning process by going to mountain bike camp and surrounding myself with other beginners who were facing the same challenges.

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Practicing my skills back home on the Fort Tuthill Bike Park in Flagstaff, AZ

This year as I tread into new waters professionally, I have decided to volunteer at several Trek Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camps. Each camp draws 50 women at various stages of learning. The structure allows for skill development on grass in the morning, followed by an afternoon ride to practice new skills on real trails. Through my involvement with the camp I hope to stay connected to the practice of learning and to translate those lessons into my courses on workplace communication. I will share what I learn here, so I hope you will enjoy the ride!

Practical Steps for Memorizing a Speech

I never memorized a speech until I joined Toastmasters. Five speech contests later, I have learned how. It does not always make sense to memorize a speech or a presentation, but if you really need every word to count, then it is worth the time and effort. This method is not fast, but it is effective.

Here is what works for me:

  1. 41Write the speech out by hand
    (personally I like to lay on the carpet and write in an old notebook)
  2. Type the speech and show it to your peers/mentor for editing and feedback
  3. Rewrite the speech by hand
    (the act of writing by hand takes longer but helps you memorize it)
  4. Read the speech aloud and record yourself with an audio recorder
    (I just use the Voice Recorder app on my phone) – This is when you can get the first time estimate of your speech and see if you need to revise it further for time constraints.
  5. Read the speech aloud and/or listen to the recording enough times that you have a sense of the speech.
  6. Create an outline by rewriting only the first few words of each sentence, each on it’s own line of paper. You may also want to include key phrases or punch lines that you do not want to miss.
  7. Read the “outline” and try to fill in the missing parts of each sentence. In trying to remember the exact wording you may rephrase some sentences. This is good because it means you are restating it in a way that feels more natural to you when it is said outloud.
  8. Once you can recite the whole speech only using the outline as your guide, rerecord the speech on an audio recorder.
  9. Listen to the recording several times.
  10. Practice saying the speech without the outline while walking, driving, biking, or doing chores.
  11. Once you can say it through without big pauses or missteps you are ready to do a “speedthrough”. A speedthrough is when you recite the speech as quickly as possible without any of the dramatic pauses or vocal variety.
  12. Do several speedthroughs until you can say it without missing important pieces.
  13. Finally, go back to practicing the speech with full expression, gestures, props (if applicable).
  14. At this point the speech will be memorized but you will further bake it into your memory as you polish it for staging, gestures, and vocal variety.

This process usually requires at least two weeks of deliberate practice. Take more time if you can. It is good to space out the steps and allow yourself time to forget the speech and then re-remember it.

This method is best for a speech contest, TED talk, or other important live event in which every word you say will be scrutinized and you have a strong incentive to give it your very best effort.

Doing Good to Be Better

As I drove up the hill to soccer practice I contemplated my depression. Clinical, I described my symptoms: low affect, loss in appetite, tired and groggy after ten hours of sleep, negative thoughts. Luckily I was still teetering on the edge of a real depressive episode, still able to reflect on my own mood and realize the difference between symptoms and self identity. I knew I was at the edge and I wanted to back away. Soccer would help … right? In the midst of the depression it seemed ridiculous. The cynical voice in my head crowed, “How is kicking a ball in circles going to fix this? You are not even good at soccer. What if missing goals and kicking the ball out of bounds like an idiot makes you feel worse?”

Don’t think, just drive. You told them you would be there, just show up.

As Woody Allen said, 80% of success is showing up. In my case, showing up to soccer, kicking the ball around, even out of bounds, actually works. By the end of 90 minutes on the field with my friends, I was feeling normal. I could smile a genuine smile. I was hungry for a healthy meal. I had energy and was excited for the rest of the day. Rationally, I knew it should work because I have been using sports and time outside to manage depression since I was little.

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My soccer team

This concept that your behavior can affect your mindset is one reason why I named my business, Do Good, Be Good. I believe that good actions can create goodness in people. After twenty years of emotional highs and lows I have learned to structure my life around behavior that I know is good for me and for others because it makes me a better person. I use these terms “good and better”. They are intentionally vague. Some days a good person means optimistic and fun to be around. Some days good means loving, generous and patient. On the worst days better means the ability to pull myself back from the edge before I hurt people I love. I am lucky and grateful that my depression is mild enough that I can manage it with sunlight and exercise.

I believe that the lessons I have learned and continue to learn in doing good in order to be good translate to a way of life, whether you want to overcome depression, be successful at work, or both.

Why My Kitchen Counters are Clean and My Cat Hates Me

One of the wondrous delights of working from home is cranking the music up loud and dancing around the house. We keep our thermostat low (60-65 degrees) and after a couple hours of typing at my desk I can’t feel my fingers any more. In order to get my blood pumping and my energy level up I turn on Pandora to Uptown Funk or Queen.

… “I WANT TO RIDE MY BICYCLE!” …

As a perpetual achiever I have to multi-task while belting out a song or dancing around the house, so I usually grab a disinfecting wipe and wipe down the counters to the beat. It really is quite a striking scene and I am glad that I have the house to myself for this daily ritual. That is, except for the cat. Elsa, our maligned Siamese/Himalayan fluffy feline does NOT appreciate this behavior. She cocks her head, gives me a look, … “seriously?” and then sulks off to hide under the covers somewhere.

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My unhappy cat

Why do I bring this up? It took me years to realize this secret to productivity: understand where you can get energy from and structure your day to optimize energy. If you don’t work from home, your daily energy break may look more like a walk outside or coffee with a colleague. Whatever it takes, take that break and keep your spirits up! People are depending on you!

For your viewing pleasure if you need it: