Saturday, April 5, 2008

How Spending Money Makes You Money

By going on a mini-vacation next weekend, I'm making money. How? Simple: if I don't re-charge my batteries soon, I will A) become sick (in fact, I can already feel the glands in my throat are swollen) from exhaustion; B) do a quality of work that does not meet my standards. The first results in my losing money because I can't work, and the second is important because I want to keep my clients happy.

I can't wait to leave town next weekend and have time away from work, my laptop, and email. By not working for a few days, I'm doing something for myself that will allow me to work better and faster after I return. I'm not taking my (current) dream vacation of a few weeks in Iceland. Because my travel fund isn't funded enough for that trip, I'm taking part of what I have and finding a nice alternative for myself. Right now, I'm too tired to do an activity-rich vacation, and I don't have the energy to explore someplace new. So, I'm going somewhere I've been before, and somewhere I won't feel overwhelmed with "I should be doing something/anything/that activity!" all the time

I'm not sure if it's just the season, but I've read a few "do I or don't I take a vacation" posts in different blogs. My response is: if you have the cash, definitely do it -- and do it before your mental or physical health makes a vacation an emergency priority. Saving money for personal (and/or family) mental health is a very important thing, and it shouldn't be ignored for "well, I/we could use that $500/1000/whatever for paying down our debt."

Burnout is a nasty, draining thing, and this happened to me a couple times during my hi-tech days. It's scary when you go on a two-week vacation and you're not rested and relaxed when you come home. Feeling tired all the time and having the attention span of an gnat is not enviable or recommended.

The first time I hit burnout, I didn't realize it until my supervisor pointed out that I was doing about 25% of the work I had been the several months leading up to that point. My work volume had decreased by 75%!! That was scary to find out -- especially when the supervisor immediately launched in to a "well, this has to change or you will be experiencing some change in your employment status" speech. That she waited so long to say anything or ask about how I was doing is something else entirely -- though the moral of that is: you can't wait for your boss (or anyone else) to recognize the signs of burnout and then have them nudge you into taking some time off.

After that first bout of burnout, I focused more on my job and planned a vacation. Eventually, my work volume returned (and I also got a better supervisor).

The healthier you are mentally, the more apt you are to get new projects and stay off the boss' "what the heck is wrong with Joe?!" radar. While there are definitely things you want your boss to notice, you don't want them to notice you being tired, worn out and with a limited attention span, or having your volume and/or quality of work noticeably change for the worse.

I don't think I'm currently at a point where my work quality is suffering, though I'm pretty certain I could accomplish more in less time if I didn't currently feel so tired all the time. I'd certainly also save time on re-verifying content and having to look at my notes to remind myself of details.

So, by taking time and a little money for a vacation, it is possible to make more money. I know my situation is a little different since I'm self-employed and don't have a sponsored "vacation pay" benefit, yet I still think this is true for anyone. It's not only about being able to bill more hours, it's about being able to do better work, and it's also (very importantly) about doing something for myself.

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