Early in my career I felt the way to win favor or climb the ladder was to work the hardest. There was a period of almost 45 days where I didn’t take a single day off. I said “yes” to every event while working for a local congressman and there was an event every day. I wanted to show I was really eager and engaged. I took every single opportunity, including those on Saturdays and Sundays.
Come the 46th day, I had to be admitted into the hospital because my body had shut down. I was hospitalized for 10 days with viral meningitis. It was stress induced and it was actually one of the first cases of the zoster virus, or chicken pox, which in adults manifests as shingles. It had entered my spinal fluid and morphed into viral meningitis.
It taught me I don’t need to be the person taking everything.
The idea in my head was that I wanted to everyone to see that I was indispensable; that you need me, that the company or the congressman needed me in such a way that I would always have job security. But being hospitalized for 10 days isn’t doing anyone any benefit, myself or the office. I had to learn taking time for yourself is important.
And in truth, you don’t want to be indispensable because you can’t ever get to that place. There is always going to be someone who wants my job, and there is always going to be someone who can take it when I leave. The presumption that I could be completely indispensable is a false one.
At the same time, for me to do my job and do it well, I have to take time for myself. That means taking weekends off, especially now that I have kids. I hold that time very sacred. On Saturdays and Sundays, I do shut down, I rejuvenate and I come back to work healthy and excited, ready to take on the week.
That may mean I work longer hours Monday through Friday, but I still make sure I shut down on Saturdays and Sundays.
It was important to make sure I had more down time and that I wasn’t pushing myself beyond my limits. Because I was more willing and open to saying I can’t work constantly, I was able to pursue the girl that ended up becoming my wife.
We all juggle and we all have to multitask, but you can’t throw everything into the air and assume you can catch it all.