Posted by: Michelle | January 4, 2014

Happy New Year, 2013

No, it isn’t a typo. This is a blog I wrote and never finished last year. You see, I have a tendancy to get distracted. I mean to finish what I start but… you know those pesky squirrels. They run by and all of a sudden I’m sucked into something new and shiny (at least for a few minutes until the next squirrel runs by but that is a whole other topic). My wonderfully talented writer friend made a “Mighty List” a while ago which inspired me to do the same. Last night she re-published said list with a few modifications. And once again, I thought “wow, this is something I totally need to do.” But then I couldn’t find it. But as I was looking, I ran into this blog and was reminded again of how often I get distracted. As I read it, I realized not much has changed in the last year and I find myself in almost the same position as I did at the end of last year. Professionally, this isn’t a good sign. So I need to use this as motivation to make some changes in the upcoming year because I cannot waste another year ending up in the same place. For me it’s all about personal growth, which includes my professional growth. And although I’ve been on “vacation” the past two weeks, work has, as usual, intruded on my time off. That whole “work-life” balance thing is a real struggle for me and something I’ve sworn to change. Problem is no one else seems to understand that I actually want “real” time off (meaning no “just answer that one email” or “just take that one call”). I’ve trained them to expect it so I suppose it’s going to take some time to untrain them. Wish me luck, because I’m going to need it!

It’s that time of year. The “let’s look back on the year” and the “what do we want to do different next year?” I, for one, do not buy into the whole “New Year’s Resolution” premise. I believe – if you want to change, why do you have to wait for January 1? Or Monday? Or tomorrow? What’s wrong with the here and now? If not now, when?

As human beings, we all tend to put off the things we don’t like to do. At least this human being does. Yet I strive to become a better person most days (I would say every day but who would I be kidding?), not just once a year when January 1st rolls around. This is why I do not make New Year’s resolutions. In fact, I would say they are more of a demotivator because of higher expectations associated with success and failure of such proclamations. So the only resolution I make is not to make any. That way I know I can succeed.

However… when it comes to my professional life, I have little choice but to reflect on the previous year before moving into the next. Raises and promotions tend to be effective as of January 1 so one cannot avoid the “what now?” (or at least I can’t).

I’ve never been satisfied with status quo. It goes against everything I believe. Maybe it is the ADHD brain – I become bored easily so once I master something, I’m always looking for something new to challenge me. So as I prepare procrastinate in preparing for a meeting with my boss later this week, I decided maybe I need to work on a better work-life balance in 2013. For starters, I decided I need to take all of my vacation days (all 35 of them [not including holidays]). For the past three years, I have lost between 7-10 days of PTO (paid time off) annually because at my employer if you don’t use it, you lose it. So essentially, I’m lowering my own salary by not taking my paid time off. Even when I do take time off, 80% of the time I’m still checking email, taking calls, etc. And I’m convinced that I’m not doing myself (or my employer) any favors. At the end of the day, not taking off means I am not performing at my peak and my attitude goes down the drain. I become cranky and burnt out. At one point this summer, I actually stood in the bathroom and looked in the mirror and asked myself if it was worth it. Then I started practicing for my next line of work “Welcome to Wal-Mart,” picturing myself in a blue vest greeting the customers as they entered the store. Surely that was less stressful than what I was currently doing. Work habits die hard and this will be a tough one for me to break, not to mention, I’ve trained my boss and colleagues to expect this. Now is the time to set the record straight and realign expectations for the future. So I have been practicing…

These past 10 days, I’ve actually unplugged from work (with only two exceptions where I was specifically looking for emails associated with scheduling travel) and for probably the first time in my life, had NO guilt associated with it. In fact, I’m still not ready to head back to work the day after tomorrow when I head to the airport at 4 AM. Funny, I thought I had all the time in the world because I was home and “off” to take care of things I have put off (oil change, new tires, unpacking boxes, donating stuff to Goodwill, deep clean, etc.) As far as preparing for my upcoming meeting Wednesday, I had several of those Scarlett O’Hara moments… “I won’t think about that now, I’ll think about that tomorrow.” (You see, I knew I had to reflect on my year and make some decisions on the direction I’m headed career wise so I could build goals for next year). But here I am, New Year’s Eve and I haven’t accomplished anything. Oh, I started a few projects, jotted down some notes but nothing worthwhile and whilst some would say “but at least you got some time off” being lazy will hurt me later as I being a month of travel and too few days home to do all the stuff I should have done when I was home for two weeks.

Then again, there is always tomorrow and the day after. I have roughly 8 hours of travel Wednesday (including airport/layover time) – plenty of time to throw together a career plan. As for the rest, there is always the next time I have two weeks of unscheduled travel (famous last words). Sigh.

For now, I won’t go to bed with any regrets. Work will always be there. There is never enough hours to do everything so prioritizing rest and relaxation over and above anything else will (hopefully) prove beneficial as I get ready to hit the road.

If only the pesky neighbors would stop shooting off fireworks, I could enjoy what’s left of this evening and my last day of vacation.

So I did have that meeting and the new year started off with a bang… chuck full of lofty goals and aspirations. Of course, things never go as planned and between crazy travel and oodles of competing projects, I spent a lot of time with my hair on fire and wasn’t able to get my vacation time in. I won’t even mention how many days I lost (not to mention the number of Sundays I traveled, the holidays I worked or the weekends I lost to work) but know that I vow to do better in 2014. Of course, I should mention that the vacations I did take were amazing… one week in the Philippines and 12 days in Russia. But hey, I am actually getting ready to hit the “Publish” button so maybe there is hope for me yet. Now on to my “Mighty List” of 2014.

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