On Firemen & Vacation Days

One of my early childhood memories was wanting to be President of the United States. Then, I wanted to be President of NBC. Then a DJ. Then a center for the Atlanta Hawks. Somewhere along the way, I ended up going to college to study to be an engineer and ended up being an Air Force Acquisitions Officer, and then give that all up to become a DJ.

Never once did the thought of becoming a fireman cross my mind, but ‘firefighting’ has become my main role with my company at the day job, despite every effort I take to make it otherwise. This becomes boldly apparent every time I schedule to take a day off. I am usually attacked by a mass insanity of half-projects that suddenly become someone’s priority when word gets around I will not be around for a few days. Which lead to me spending at least 6 hours on work related projects on the supposed days off.

Meanwhile, I feel the pressure every December to burn my vacation days.

Because the real reason I hate taking the day off and being to myself: I can schedule a productive day for myself. I can also be flexible enough for interruptions and emergencies. In fact, I have found I can make a list of things to do for the day, and then can choose to blow off every activity on the entire list, and still find ways to accomplish something.

At work, I often begin with an extensive list of things to get done and find myself quickly confronted with various ‘emergencies’ that take me away from my list that after completion didn’t pan out to be exactly emergencies. When this happens, the day ends with me leaving work late and feeling frustrated from not making any actual progress in the job.

For you, I offer some advice to hopefully save you from similar frustration. If you find yourself stressed out at work by maximum effort but minimum, if any, progress, steal a moment to yourself and think about what your workday might be missing. Is it:

A Routine – the act of following a ritualistic daily routine will help you gauge your progress in your daily tasks…unless you routinely never get anything done.

Proper Focus – the ability to focus on a single goal as you move toward it, or even focus on a single task as you try to finish it, will do wonders for your sanity and productivity.

A Score Card – I might not have mastered getting anything checked off my daily master list, but I still attempt it. Your to-do list becomes your roadmap to success or at least a way to gauge when you have finished something.

A System To Keep People Away – If you don’t plan out what you are going to do with your time, someone else will quickly fill that time up for you. But if you have bosses that respect what you do for your company and themselves personally, they will find ways to divert some of the problem children and their problem projects far enough away from their office aces (you are an office ace, right?) to minimize distractions. If the boss can’t help, partner up with a co-worker to work a little misdirection for each other. And if you are lucky enough to be a supervisor, make sure you take good care of that assistant who always finds a way to say “no” in just the right manner to get the point across.

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