Women, Spirit & Money: Why Time Off Is Good for Business and Life

The bumper sticker in front of me proclaims: “Not all who wander are lost.” In western North Carolina, we may encounter Tolkien’s words anywhere, from the silver bracelet on our best friend’s arm to the magnet on our neighbor’s refrigerator. We may find days come when these words affirm, and others, accuse.

Time off creates connections. Riley, 9, holds a Catalpa worm from a tree overhanging the French Broad River on the Island in Marshall, N.C. on an afternoon adventure. Sherri’s Great-Uncle Riley recommended Catalpa worms for fishing when she was the same age.

Time off creates connections. Riley, 9, holds a Catalpa worm from a tree overhanging the French Broad River on the Island in Marshall, N.C. on an afternoon adventure. Sherri’s Great-Uncle Riley recommended Catalpa worms for fishing when she was the same age.

I adore my profession, and most days, it doesn’t feel like work at all. But unchecked, I will eventually work myself into a state of exhaustion. The older I am, the more difficult it becomes to recover.

When I look back, I understand how I got here. By the mid-90s, I was a “rising star” achiever; an under-30, full-time female newspaper editor, a newlywed, and award-winning non-profit leader. Yet, behind the scenes, by age 27, I was already being treated for anxiety and burnout, tearfully watching marathon days of “Northern Exposure” reruns, and considering running away to find my tribe. In need of a lifeline, my closest friend, Maureen, introduced me to Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Its “Artist’s Dates,” together with her “Morning Pages” exercises fueled my recovery on the inner plane.

Eventually, I wrote—and danced—myself into a better life. Today, I enjoy the luxury of a life consciously crafted, which allows me to utilize my expertise but attain a semblance of balance. I’ve made positive changes, developed imperfect coping skills. Most days, I still need to cut myself a break, enjoy my kid, make time for my beloved, and take time for myself.

Even now, I find it hard to transition between being relaxed and being stressed. In my case, there came a time when stress actually became more comfortable, and relaxation caused anxiety.

“Without time and opportunity to (relax), the neural connections that produce feelings of calm and peacefulness become weaker, making it actually more difficult to shift into less-stressed modes,” said Deborah Mulhern, a clinical psychologist, in a 2011 interview in U.S. News and World Report.

Healing the damage, she says, means taking more time off.

Recently, research conducted by Project: Time Off shows I’m not alone: a widening gap between the lifestyle many Americans want and the one they’re living. The gist of it suggests that the things we do create what we don’t want, instead of what we do want. Conflicted, we work harder and longer to avoid the realization that we need to reboot our hard drives and defragment our lives.

Doing more with less is our daily mantra. More than a decade into recovery following 9/11 and the resulting recession, many of us are tired of working all the time – and WNC women are tired of being paid as much as 25 percent less than our work is worth.

Exhibiting a tendency to bring home our stress, we miss our kids’ important events. We don’t visit our families. And we stop putting energy into our relationships. Many of us don’t expect to retire. Yet, regaining our futures may lie in our ability to create our own deserted islands of time, to take a break from the familiar, to wander and get lost in order to get found.

Therein lies our hope for the future.

Myriad benefits are attributed to time off, whether in short one-hour to one-day bursts, a long weekend away, or a week of adventure. And though it’s counter-intuitive, the experts agree that time off undeniably improves our working and professional lives.

Time off helps us:

• Increase productivity
• Decrease stress
• Cultivate an Interesting Life
• Supercharge creativity
• Multiply connections
• Cure wanderlust
• Choose happiness
• Make time for projects
• Rejuvenate relationships
• Encourage self confidence

Want to add “time off” to your business and life plan? Here’s how.

1. When creating your annual plan, first ink in the time off to do what you love with the people you love: take a vacation, go to your class reunion, holiday with an aging parent.

2. Then, pencil in your business objectives, working around those windows of time. Consider adding a quarterly “get away” with an overnight stay in a hotel to focus on your business without interruption.

3. Consider doing something similar with your life partner and/or children: a weekly coffee date, a monthly afternoon with just the two of you, a standing date to have an adventure.

4. Take “time off” to the next level by adding a travel component to your business footprint in whatever way feels right to you. For example, you might plan travel around business opportunities, such as special events or trainings which expand your ideas about what’s possible. You may also set aside money in your business to create “time off” with co-workers to build cohesion and synergy.

5. Add residual income streams to your business footprint, so that doing what you love not only fills your personal well, but also grows your base of support.

This autumn, I invite you to join me as I wander across gypsy gold and red mountains to my heart’s content, explore with a sense of wonder, and paint the world in which I live and work in glorious hues. When we take time off, there is more gained than lost.

“Women, Spirit and Money” conscious business coaching with Sherri L. McLendon, MA, is now online at www.womenspiritandmoney.biz. Currently accepting new clients, Sherri recently ranked #31 of the top 99 pros on Linked In within her area of expertise as a marketing public relations consultant and content strategist. Email her directly at [email protected].

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