Fuel Inject Fun Into Your Life

Toes in the Sand - Marshall Atkinson

One of the biggest challenges faced by a lot of folks in the decorated apparel industry is burnout.  We spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on taking care of our customers, employees, businesses and meeting the ever-demanding crazy deadlines that are trust upon us.  Successful companies have to do what it takes to “Get-R-Done” and that includes coming in early, working all night and sacrificing weekends.  Every time you do this, or ask your employees to suck it up and help you with this burden, you are adding stress and an almost palatable weight to everyone’s backs.  There needs to be some occasional relief.

I just returned from a great family vacation at our beach house at Alligator Point, Florida.  It was exactly what I needed to regroup, refocus and reenergize my inner core for the rest of this year.  We made a lot of great memories, made some new friends and reconnected with friends and family.  I’m not going to torture you with details about my vacation, but I would like to share some thoughts on how you can enjoy one yourself:

Unplug. As professionals we spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen or on the phone. To be able to unplug, you first have to train your staff and enable them to make decisions in your absence.  Set clear expectations.  They need to understand what they can and can’t do.  You hired them for their skills, and if you have trained them correctly you don’t need to micromanage them.  Let key people know how and when you can be reached.  Set your Out of Office messages with verbiage that details to anyone trying to reach you who can help them with questions.  When I was on vacation I scheduled a daily check-in on my phone, usually just after lunch, and only once had to get involved regarding a challenge.  While this wasn’t a total blackout, it did give me a tremendous peace of mind to enjoy myself and relax.

Have an Adventure.  This means get out of your house and go somewhere.  It doesn’t have to be a new destination; it just has to be different than your normal routine.  For me, getting my family to enjoy another summer beach house tradition was exactly what the doctor ordered.  The contrast between a normal day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a toes-in-the-sand day on the beach at Alligator Point, Florida is huge, despite the fact that the location wasn’t a new one.  Absorbing everything that fresh surroundings have to offer is one of the greatest things about traveling.  It affects your brain and your soul in a super-charged way that just sitting on your couch in your underwear on your days off will never be able to achieve.  Not that I do that.

Do Something for Yourself.  Despite it being a family adventure, just about every day during the trip I went for a run.  This was my “me” time, and a great chance to relax and just be by myself.  I ran about four miles each day, and despite the incredibly intense late July Florida heat and humidity, even pressed one day to six miles.  This was great for me, as it provided me with a daily personal challenge.  At the end of the vacation I was able to look back and be proud of my daily accomplishment…and not so guilty about what we ate and drank all week.  Whatever you enjoy, make sure you get some time penciled in just for you!

Be Open to Change.  Don’t let a rainy day or unexpected challenge ruin your vacation by getting too worked up if it isn’t perfect every day.  Staying flexible and remaining open to just letting things happen, is a great way to make a vacation fun, and certainly less stressful.  I think a lot of people project how they see the future, and set themselves up for disappointment if things don’t turn out the way it was planned.  On our trip, it did rain a few times but that just meant that I could read a book, take a nap in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday, or hang out with my son.  Not to mention the best sunsets at the beach always follow the storm.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Plan if You Can.  Personally, I love having something to look forward to.  I think it makes your day go by faster, and in the back of your mind you can be checking off the number of days until the big trip.  A good number of details can also be worked out in advance, and let’s face it that’s how you save money.  I’m a planner by nature, and a good bit of my schedule is planned about six months in advance usually.  I like to get something on the calendar, and then start working out the itinerary during downtime during my week.  This works to your advantage too if you have responsibilities and demands professionally, as you can get work planned around the trip or delegated to others so you can enjoy yourself more.

Duration Doesn’t Matter.  Of course I’m writing this article as I just returned from a trip, but in reality it’s important to find time to get away even for short periods of time.  Taking a day or even an afternoon off to pursue something you enjoy can really do wonders for your psyche.  A spontaneous event is great if you see a lag in your schedule and can swing it.  If not, schedule something by putting it on your calendar and working around it.  If you have been in this industry for any length of time you know when those periods come up when you are going to be a little slower.  Take advantage of the respite and use it to your advantage.

Do Something New.  New is great.  Want to really get your mind out of your shop?  Learn how to do something.  Anything.  It doesn’t have to be on your vacation either.  Take a yoga class, learn to cook a new Chinese dish, or go visit that touristy thing in your city that you drive by every day.  On this vacation, my old high school pal John took my son and me sailing one afternoon.  (Thanks John!!)  It was a great experience and added another dimension to the fun to get out on the water and experience the fun of sailing.  Everyone has a personal list of things that they always wanted to try.  Pick one and go do it.

In closing, I’m constantly reading on the industry forums and group chats how everyone is overloaded, busy and just crazily stressed out.  I see people posting that they are printing at 2:00 in the morning, or having to work on a Sunday.  I get it, because I’ve traveled those same roads too.  There has to be a good work / life balance.  You are important.  Your family is important.  Triple check that you aren’t putting your customers ahead of your personal goals and responsibilities too.  If you are really that busy, maybe it’s time to hire some people to help you.  Just a thought.  Take care of yourself!!

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