When I open my online workshops these days, I often put the following directive on the screen: “In chat, tell us something you’ll do differently in 2021.” It’s meant to be a conversation starter before we begin the business of the day.
Lately, however, I’ve been wondering: What will *I* do differently this year? And I think I’ve come up with an answer: I will take the month of August off.
I recognize that following a year of lockdown, this vow will hardly sound radical. I suspect that once we’re all able to travel again – in the UK, where I live, it’s still illegal to go on holiday – a lot of people will treat this summer as special.
Perhaps they’ll find themselves finally tackling the Grand Canyon. Or Reykjavík. Maybe they’ll just take an extended staycation and explore their town/city/region, as I’ve done on numerous occasions.
But I struggle with vacations. When your work mantra is “more,” rather than enough, taking a vacation will always feel wrong. And in this sense, I’m very American, and not at all British: anything over two weeks of vacation per year is hard to rationalize.
But in my case, the idea of imposing some sort of fixed rule about vacations doesn’t really make much sense. I’m self-employed, after all. Which means that provided I make enough money each year, I get to decide when I work and when I don’t.
I take my cues here from Paul Jarvis, author of Company of One: Why Staying Small Is the Next Big Thing for Business. Jarvis argues that you should first decide why you work and then decide how much you need to do in order to support that goal.
In Jarvis’ case, he works to support his life. He frequently takes a month or two off from his software design business every year to go hiking in a remote location. So, he deliberately limits the number of new customers he takes on in order to facilitate that lifestyle.
But while I’ve long respected Jarvis for the decisions he makes – have I mentioned that he lives on a remote island off the coast of Canada? – I’ve not been able to emulate him.
Taking a page from Jarvis, I’ve decided to devote the month of August to writing. Sure, I’ll take some time off, hopefully to go back to America to do a memorial service for my mother.
But what I really want to do is to dig into the memoir I’ve been working on for the past six months. I know what you’re thinking: why not just take the whole month off… from everything? Why assign yourself a task? I have plenty of friends and colleagues over here who do precisely that – every year!
But I love this writing project. I feel a sense of momentum with it, and I know that once the academic year heats up again, I’ll be too busy to give it as much attention as I’d like.
I’m even eyeing some writing retreats in the UK where you disappear for a week with a bunch of other writers, although that might need to wait until 2022. If I can’t do that, a good friend – and fellow writer – has a place in Italy. She’s invited me to join her for a short writing holiday there several times, but I’ve always declined because… yup, I was too busy.
Or maybe I’ll just sit in my backyard – what I like to refer to as my “outdoor office” – and write there. Doesn’t matter. The point is… I’m going to treat this August differently.
Of course, in order to follow through on this plan, I need to figure out a way to hold myself accountable. Otherwise, as with New Year’s Resolutions, it might not happen. I’ll be offered a piece of work and just say: “Why not?”
So, I’ve begun telling my clients about my “August Off” plan. I’m also writing it down here.
I recently blogged about growing up as a business. Maybe the best sign of that evolution is when you arrive at the point where you decide that it’s OK *not* to work all the time.
How about you? What will you do differently this Summer? How will you hold yourself accountable to your plan? Please share with the community!