BLUF – Spend your downtime properly and you can return to work with energy without damaging your loved ones.
Over the past several years, I’ve made it a point to take leave during Spring Break for my kids, either for the entire week or a big portion of it. This isn’t uncommon for parents of school age children, so I treat the time off like the holiday season and work my leave out early w/my boss and my teammates. I’ve heard of and seen different techniques on how people use their time off, so I figured I’d share how I set up my recent leave to Las Vegas I took with our two kids (the wifey went on a Ozark Highland Trail thru hike w/her brother…so awesome!).
- Make sure you actually take your leave. You’ve earned it, so take it! Take your leave spread out throughout the year, don’t be “that guy” who has to burn all of their days every September.
- When traveling by air, take advantage of travel perks available to active duty military. I’m not going to go deep into this topic as other sites such as Military Miles and Finance and Nerd Wallet cover your options extremely well. I will share that I am a Platinum American Express card holder (annual fee waived), which gives me Priority Pass access to Airport Lounges for myself and two guests. Essentially we visited lounges along the way and fed ourselves for free. Those expenses can add up, so plan accordingly.
- Share expectations w/your team on when you expected to be communicated with. I told my squadron teammates that I would take my tablet home with me, but wouldn’t take the tablet nor my work phone to Vegas. If it is important, they needed to call or text me. Important being the key word. Part of me leaving is challenging the team to operate without me and showing my trust w/the leadership to make decisions and keep the team moving forward. I was in fact only contacted twice while in Vegas: one for a time sensitive manning task (which only required a general decision that was 99% made by our Chief) and the other was for great news of an NCO getting picked up for OTS (again, our Chief only sought out my quick “yes” to share the news w/the NCO as we are on the same page w/sharing good news quickly). My interactions took less than 10 minutes total, and I didn’t ask anything else about work. I may or may not have been sitting at a blackjack table and the dealer said I couldn’t be on my phone. Either way, trust your teammates to make decisions when you’re away and don’t use the 2,000 mile screwdriver and try to manage from a distance.
- Use the time for self-improvement. I treat my time off sort of like “off-screen time” where I choose to read physical books. I usually have a stack of books I want to read, so I tend to surge in reading on my time off. I finished Flags of our Fathers by James Bradley and started The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pakkanen. I also read Entrepreneur and Outside magazines. Point being is that I want to expose my mind to different stories and situations to learn new (or emphasize current) techniques I use at work/fitness/life. New topics I’ve discovered are Every Day Carry (EDC) communities and more backpack/bag YouTubers such as Chase Reeves and UrAvgConsumer. These new topics I got into when I returned home, as we were in Vegas from Sunday to Thursday and had three more days before “normal schedules” resumed. I honestly have to watch myself from binge watching them, but am excited to learn more about work and travel efficiencies. And bags, because it’s not a secret that I’m essentially a male version of Imelda Marcos that enjoys shoes and bags…a little too much.
In the end, I fully enjoyed my leave and didn’t allow work to distract me because I made choices early on how I intended to manage my time and attention. Sounds cliche, but all of us need time to recharge and return to work ready to hit the ground running. I’m actually looking forward to Monday and catching up w/my team as we have some big things coming up (which I’ll be sharing here over the next couple of months).