Why I love the first workday after a vacation

Steven Universe

I’ve been on vacation for two weeks. I’m writing this at 6 a.m. on my first day back. I’m eager to get started.

The page proofs for a book I’m working on have come back. I’m eager to review them, so we can turn this manuscript into an actual book. This is where my knowledge of publishing will really help the client.

Another client is due to send me the first chapters of his book to edit. We developed the plan before I went away; I’m eager to make sure his prose is executing on that plan. I hope I get the chance to help him be a better writer, too.

I have two workshops coming up soon. I’ll be talking to the people I’m working for and getting the content settled. A little prep will make sure those workshops are effective.

Another guy wants me to craft an identity for his company. We have to work out the process and the price. Thinking about this allows me to build an appropriate set of expectations so we won’t suffer later. I’d love to get started on that project, it looks challenging.

An editor has suggested changes on an article I sent her. They look like good ideas; I’m eager to improve it.

And I have a couple invoices and books to send out. Those aren’t fun, but they generate cash and build relationships, so they’re worth doing. Sometimes you need a little break from the intellectual challenges.

Why I feel this way

I made a commitment when I left the corporate world to start my own business. I decided I would work only with people I liked, on projects that interested me, at pay rates that I deserved.

I can get along with most people. But if I get a sense that I won’t get along with you, I won’t work with you, no matter how much you want to pay.

I enjoy work that generates a result, typically a book or other piece of writing my client and I can be proud of. There are an awful lot of projects like that. If a project doesn’t look like that, I’m not interested, no matter how much you want to pay.

I work on some things for free. I work on others for less than my typical rate. But those are unusual — they’re projects I’m doing for fun. I won’t work for less than I deserve, because if you don’t value the work, I don’t want to do it.

This has resulted in an idea situation for me: a world in which I’m eager to get going the first day back from a vacation. (It also helps that I didn’t let issues pile up while I was away, so I’m not facing a huge backlog of emails and problems.) I missed these clients. I missed these projects.

Is this how you feel the first day back from a vacation?

How to get here

To be fair, I’ve been working for nearly 40 years. I didn’t always feel this way. I worked my way into this spot.

But you can do that, too.

Take projects that develop skills. Then you’ll work yourself into a position where you get to use the skills that you most enjoy using.

Learn to like and appreciate most people you work with. Identify the toxic ones, so you can learn to avoid those types in the future.

Figure out what results are meaningful to you. Gravitate towards those and away from the projects that aren’t. If your work is full of meaningless projects, start looking for a different career.

Develop a sense for corporate politics. Assuming you don’t enjoy it, learn how to minimize your exposure to it. When shit doesn’t matter, let it go. (I wish I could give this advice to my younger self.)

Not everything I do is fun. That’s why it’s called “work.” But it’s fulfilling, and it’s work worth doing. My career objective wasn’t money, or power, or prestige. It was getting to this point.

What’s your objective? What are you doing to achieve it?

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  1. This is my first day back from a long vacation, too. Likewise, I can’t wait to dive back in. In fact, I started at 5 AM (due in part to jet lag). I started my own management consulting/training business 25 years ago, and have never looked back. What a joy to learn something new every day, work with people I like and respect, and to know that everything I do, every project take on, is a choice I can make. You have captured the benefits of working for oneself beautifully. Bring on the workweek!

  2. My father did this for over 60 years and kept his office until he was 91 years old! He loved his profession. I aspire to this although still enmeshed in the corporate world I am working for a firm that allows me great flexibility. It is worth it until I get to the next level.

  3. This is going to sound really dumb, I bet, but here goes. I am leaving on July 27 for a 3.5-week trip to Moscow, Lake Baikal, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Oslo – that part is a driving trip up to near Trondheim, with stops in places like Lillehammer, where I have ancestral family, and than Iceland again. My wife, 2 daughters, mom, mother-in-law, and one of my wife’s cousins will be traveling with me. I can’t wait for this trip. I have earned the break.

    But I can’t wait to get back, too! I like my job. I love the team I manage. I love what the business in which I work does. The challenges are fun. I can’t wait to get back to dive in. (not that I’m going to miss the break)