I was recently talking with a successful 20-something. Her work days are filled with a demanding job. She develops software for the military. Deadlines are tight and the work is challenging. If that’s not enough, she’s getting a masters degree at night. After a grueling week at work, she commented that on her Saturday she really didn’t get anything done–as in work. Would you guess that she felt a bit guilty? Attention all twenty somethings: You didn’t get the memo.
You may work with twenty somethings. They’re known as the millennial generation and they’ve made quite an impression in business. They have high expectations and can be demanding. They expect immediate gratification because they grew up with computers. They are very confident in making their own decisions. Hard charging as they are, they need to know one reality of work. If you work seven days a week, you’re going to burn out.
Early in my own career I found that out. I was in field sales working in one state and my manager was in another. He was a great guy and he had his own particular views on management. He believed in trial by fire. When I got my first territory assignment, I didn’t hear from him for a month. I was so busy working that I didn’t even notice. He told me later, “It’s sink or swim. You either figure it out on your own, or not. There’s no hand holding in this business.” Fortunately, I worked with an engineer who acted as my mentor and guided me when I was figuring things out.
I was traveling on the road seeing clients from Monday to Friday. Saturday was my office day when I wrote reports and did other customer work. On Sunday I finished my work and got ready to go out on the road again. By the third month I was exhausted. On one client sales call, the engineer asked me how it was going. I told him about my work schedule and he said, “You’ve got to stop that. You need to take one office day a week and not do your work on weekends. You’ll burn out if you don’t stop.” I took his advice. I took Fridays as office days. Saturday’s were my time and Sunday nights I prepared for the week.
This young woman got the same advice from me. I told her even the Almighty took a day off! Then I addressed her comment about not getting anything done. What’s wrong with not doing anything on a weekend? If that’s your choice, then why not? There’s nothing wrong with taking care of oneself. In fact, if you’re not taking care of yourself, you need to. Management will take as much work as you want to give. In today’s work environment, no one is going to tell you to stop doing so much. If you don’t take care of yourself, no one will.
I told this young woman, I hope you do a lot more of nothing on your weekends. Take walks. Get lost in a book and lose track of time. Do whatever you want. One day a week, every worker needs to do whatever she wants. That one day, the word “should” is banished from your vocabulary.