Spoiler Alert: There’s No Prize for Being a PTO Martyr
Work/Life balance. We all talk about it. We all tell our friends, family, spouses, and employees to take their time, but do you take your time? Like many professional I know, I used to leave days on the table every year. My unused PTO doesn’t carry over anymore, but even when it did, I still didn’t take my allotted time that was carried over. There it was, just sitting there, accumulating with no hopes of being used. Crazy, right?
I’m not alone. Did you know in 2016, 662 million vacation days were left on the table?
At one point in time, it wasn’t worth it to me to take the time off because I would be so far behind when I got back. Plus, who was going to do my job when I was gone? I started to take time off, but I would still “keep up with my e-mails” while I was out. I had convinced myself that if I kept up with my e-mails while I was out that it would lessen the “catch up” when I got back.
Guess what? My children were off for Spring Break this year from March 30th until they grudgingly return tomorrow, and I was very fortunate to be able to take the entire break off as well to spend time with them. Confession: I have never taken off their entire Spring Break before. Ever. My oldest is in the 7th grade.
I have a photo on the lock screen of my phone with a picture collage of two photos: a picture of my kids and I during their winter break in our pjs and a quote that says “You will never look back on life and think ‘I spent too much time with my kids.'” You could apply that logic to kids, family, friends, fur babies, etc. The bottom line is that we don’t regret the time we take off with friends and loved ones, and it makes us better humans doing it. Win/win.
I’m proud to say that despite a few cursory checks of my e-mail and two replies, I have stayed on vacation since I put my out of office message on the morning/afternoon(ish) of Friday, March 30th. Yes, I know that was my vacation day. Old habits die hard. I made sure that my team knew to text me if they needed me as I wouldn’t be checking e-mail regularly. However, as I’ve mentioned before, they are absolute rock stars, and there was nothing they couldn’t handle.
My kids will never be this age again. It took me a while to learn to let go and have balance, but I’m so thankful I did. We had absolutely ridiculous weather for “Spring” in Ohio, but the memories we made and the experiences we shared more than made up for it.
I know that in order for me to encourage others to practice balance, I have to show it for myself first, and I’m so thankful I did. I’m returning tomorrow morning refreshed, restored, and ready to dig in and work hard. I’m not going to win the prize for most outstanding PTO at the end of the year, and I’m thankful that I’ve finally learned that’s a good thing.