Some of you may have read my initial post on the importance of rest:

If you have – you’ll have read why it’s so important to implement effective methodologies and how to recognise the times where you need time off and to make sure you make the absolute most of it to relax, recuperate and recover.

To add to that – this post will show you how to rest and recuperate when you can BUT when you also CAN’T take time off.

Beware of false reasons for not taking time off, they will exacerbate your stress regardless of task management. Some of these could be:

  1. I have a new starter in my team
  2. I know the platform/system/business best – I must ALWAYS be on call
  3. A true leader must always be available for their team
  4. The business requirements don’t let me right now.
I’ve said all of these. Guilty as charged – not taking time off was 99% of the time, my own fault. Let’s address these statements.

1. I have a new starter in my team.

New starters deserve and require support from many levels in a company. They get support from HR for company process, support from the CEO/MD/GM to welcome them into the company and give them background on a high level, support from their direct management within the team for general day to day practise but most importantly; they get support from their team. This is the best support a new starter can receive. Whatever position you fill in this list, the support structure will cope without you for a while….

2. I know the platform/system/business best – I must ALWAYS be on call

This is the case for many tech leads/dev managers and CTOs. It can be really hard to let go of your baby, and that’s what it is. When you have spent so much time and effort creating something, you mourn it when its not there. You create a belief that your baby cannot survive without you. Someone in this position is a leader whether they like it or not. They lead that system. We will cover how leaders should succeed in a little while. But I think any person able to look in on this objectively would agree that this is a terrible way to run a system. Knowledge sharing is key for a maintainable platform, and project ownership is key to a well run team. You do not have to be on call 24/7

3. A true leader must always be available for their team

WRONG! This is a whooooooole other blog post. In short – a leader does not rule a team; a leader empowers a team.

4. Business requirements do not let me right now

Business requirements are that you can deliver your best. End of. If you create a situation where you can’t deliver to standard – you no longer meet business requirements.

When you really can’t take time off.

So with that out of the way, when is it actually really important you’re around. There really are only a few reasons.

  1. There is absolutely no cover at any level during a critical time.
  2. You have an unchangeable commitment – such as a meeting with someone in the country for that time only.
That’s all I can think of!
Let’s look at a visual representation of success, work and time.

You’ll see here – that the line down to nervous breakdown is a sharp one. The green line representing rest shows how much rest for each section is needed in order to go back down to a previous section. Most people make the fatal mistake that once you reach the peak of achievement and success, that you can carry on at that level indefinitely. A common misconception – this graph shows that it is impossible to maintain. You must go back to another section in order to progress, and recover, and recuperate.

One easy way to do this is to take some time off and go on holiday away from work. Lovely if you can actually dispel all excuses for not doing so. But occasionally, especially the higher up in a company you go, your holiday breaks become part of the company strategy. Sometimes, you just can’t take that 2 week break. But you CAN go back to an earlier section. Let’s look at an example:

You have been leading a project for the last 2 months. It has been an incredible amount of hard work and a high quantity of high level tasks requiring a lot of ability. You have implemented the project, but you can’t take some time off to recover and rest. You can however make the conscious decision to go back to automate/maintain  on that project for a while before accepting another high profile project. With that, your brain gets a rest. But also your body, during a maintenance period even for a few days, you are able to keep normal hours and get some quality home time. During these times, it’s imperative that you disengage. Let your weekends be free, and not on call. Let your evenings contain what you do to relax and not answering emails. Sometimes this change can be as good as a rest.

But you can’t do this every time. You must also give your body a break. I always think every 3  months deserves a week off. Other time periods work for other people. This is my personal preference.

The difference with this post – is that its also important to put your team on a chart like this. Pay attention to their working lives – they may not recognise they need a break. You can give them one with what you’re delegating to them.  You can suggest a good time for time off. You can reassure them that time off is not a detriment to the team.

As a leader – you must be vigilant in recognising your own position on this chart.  A good leader will always make sure they can support and encourage. A stressed leader can do neither of these.

A leader owes it to their team to be on good form, but mostly they owe it to themselves in order to create an innovative, productive but happy environment. A lot rests on your shoulders – you must relieve them once in a while.