This blog post is a major thematic departure from my usual articles.
Usually, I advocate, either directly or indirectly, for fundraising that is donor centered. My book, Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing, clearly emphasizes my belief in the importance of being donor centric.
This post, by contrast, is about you, your needs, and your happiness.
I got the idea for this post when I recently returned from delivering the keynote address at the AFP Memphis Chapter conference. (By the way, the folks there were wonderfully friendly; the food was amazing; and the sites were memorable. Memphis, home of the blues, should definitely be on your tourism bucket list.)
Anyway, I was on my Delta Airlines flight when I did something I have not done for quite some time. For some inexplicable reason, I actually listened to the pre-flight announcement. The flight attendant mentioned that if the air masks drop, each adult should put their mask on first and, then, help their child with his/her mask.
It got me thinking. To take care of others, we need to first take care of ourselves.
I learned that lesson in 1983. Shortly after co-founding a pioneering direct response agency, I was a stressed-out frazzled mess. Thinking I really needed professional help, I went to a psychologist. At the end of the first session, the doctor asked me, “When was the last time you took a vacation?”
I responded, “My wife and I take a long weekend every so often.”
He said, “No, I mean a real vacation. When was the last time you went away for a week or more?”
I told him, “With the exception of my honeymoon, I have never taken a vacation in my adult life.”
“Well, I really wish I was videotaping this session for my students,” he said.
“Am I really that bad off?,” I asked with great concern.
“No,” he laughed. “You’re a perfect example of someone who doesn’t need therapy. What you need is a vacation. Take a week off. Better yet, take two weeks off. Don’t take any calls. Don’t bring any paperwork. Just go. When you come back, I think you’ll find you feel better. If not, then come back and see me.”
So, based on doctor’s orders, my wife and I went to a remote area of Jamaica for two weeks. For the first three days, I kept hearing the phone ring. But, it was all in my head. The nearest phone was actually 18 kilometers away from the house we rented. At the end of the first week, I was finally learning to relax. By the end of the second week, I was itching to get back despite having had a fun time.
When I returned to my office, I found I was more efficient than ever. Insurmountable problems I had left behind were easily dealt with. I felt like some kind of superhero. I was more creative, more productive. My stress level was at an all-time low. I became a convert to the idea of vacationing.
From that point forward, I’ve always been sure to take vacations and to make sure my employees also take advantage of their vacation time.
I’ve also always insisted that vacations should not include any business:
- phone calls,
- text messages,
A vacation is a time of escape, a time of decompression, a time to recharge. You simply can’t fully do that if you’re still connected to the office.
I realize that we all like to feel we’re important, indispensible. But, the reality is, if we have good colleagues and staff, our organizations can survive perfectly well without us for a week or two. If it truly can’t, that actually says a great deal about one’s own managerial deficiencies.
You certainly don’t need to feel guilty about taking time off. The reality is, by vacationing, you’ll actually be more productive when in the office. First, leading up to your vacation, you’ll likely spend more hours at work than you usually do to ensure your desk is cleared before you go away. Second, when you come back, you’ll have more energy and creativity. Therefore, you’ll work more efficiently and productively.
Your organization will get more out of you if you vacation than if you stay chained to your office.
If you don’t believe me, that’s fine. Maybe you’ll believe one of the world’s truly great geniuses of all time. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote the following as quoted by Wayne W. Dyer in his book Wisdom of the Ages:
Every now and then go away,
have a little relaxation,
for when you come back
to your work
your judgment will be surer;
since to remain constantly at work
will cause you to lose power
Go some distance away
because the work appears smaller
and more of it
can be taken in at a glance,
and a lack of harmony
is more readily seen.”
If a great artist and scientist like Da Vinci can benefit from a vacation, so can you.
There is even contemporary scientific research that supports the claims I’ve made above. According to a CNN report, “detaching from a familiar environment can help get new perspectives on everyday life, says Adam Galinsky, professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.” Galinsky added, “Not just taking time off from work, but actually getting away from where you live is really important, because that’s the only way that you can achieve that perspective.”
Other researchers have reached similar conclusions. About.com Guide identifies several scientifically proven benefits of vacations, including:
- “Vacations can stave off burnout.”
- “Vacations can keep us healthy.”
- “Vacations promote overall wellbeing.”
- “Vacations can strengthen bonds.”
- “Vacations can help with your job performance.”
- “Vacations relieve stress in lasting ways.”
So, if you haven’t taken a vacation yet this year, start planning one. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better able to take care of your organization, your colleagues, your staff, and your donors.
Hmmm, now that I think of it, taking care of yourself is actually a good donor-centered strategy since it will allow you to take better care of those that support your organization.
That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?