down time

By the time you read this, the new year will have started. First, let’s acknowledge that 2022 is not a real year. It’s science-fiction. Remember Blade Runner took place in 2019. That aside, we are at the beginning of a new work year.

We’ve survived the weird time of year when we are merely guessing who is working and who isn’t, and who is on vacation and who is supposedly on duty. As things return to their normal state, it’s a good time to assess how well we managed what should have been (in North America at least) true “down time,”a time of rest and rejuvenation.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. The answers may inspire you to change how you do things this year.

If you were working and on-duty, were you able to manage your time effectively?

Hey, a lot of people had to work the last couple of weeks. That’s not a problem. You probably were covering for people who took time off. Great. But were you able to get your work done in the normal amount of time, or were you putting in extra time? If you found yourself putting in more time, was it necessary? What can you do with your manager and teammates next year to take some of the pressure off those who are holding down the fort? On the other hand, did you get done what you were expected to do while others were away?

If you weren’t “working,” did you actually do a few work-related activities?

Nobody is watching you, so be honest. We aren’t talking about putting in full days, but did you answer a couple of emails and Slack messages? Maybe you put in some time on a project while the rest of the family slept in? It isn’t a horrible thing to help someone out, or solve a customer problem. It does raise the question of whether your organization was properly staffed to begin with. It also might raise a red flag about your own ability to completely disconnect and rest.

If you weren’t supposed to be working, did you actually do a lot of work-related tasks?

This is a separate question, because in the real world there’s a difference between answering an email that might help someone else get their work done, and just answering all the emails that come in while you’re supposed to be off duty. Oh, we make all kinds of excuses: “I just didn’t want to come back to a full inbox.” How rested can you be if you spend all this family or personal time doing work so you’ll have less work when you get back?

If you are a manager, how well have you managed expectations with your team about personal time.

There are a number of questions we could ask here.

  • How well did you personally model the ability to rest and disconnect?
  • If the people who were working felt overwhelmed and understaffed, do you need to do a better job through the year of ensuring people take their personal days so there isn’t a rush to “use them or lose them” at the end of the calendar year?
  • Have you noticed people not properly taking their personal time or checking in too often?  How will you coach them so this doesn’t continue to happen?

We are asking these questions now, because in a week or two we will be knee-deep in another work year, and running so fast we might not be mindful of how we do things.

One more time. How’d you do managing your personal time this Holiday Season, and what does it say about the year to come?


Wayne Turmel--The Remote Leadership Institute

Wayne Turmel
Co-Founder and Product Line Manager

Wayne Turmel is the co-founder and Product Line Manager for the Remote Leadership Institute. For twenty years he’s been obsessed with helping managers communicate more effectively with their teams, bosses and customers. Wayne is the author of several books that demystify communicating through technology including Meet Like You Mean It – a Leader’s Guide to Painless & Productive Virtual Meetings, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations and 6 Weeks to a Great Webinar. His work appears frequently in

Wayne, along with Kevin Eikenberry, has co-authored the definitive book on leading remotely, The Long-Distance Leader: Rules for Remarkable Remote Leadership. Wayne and Kevin’s follow-up book, The Long-Distance Teammateoffers a roadmap for success not just for leaders, but for everyone making the transition to working remotely.

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Wayne Turmel has been writing about how to develop communication and leadership skills for almost 26 years. He has taught and consulted at Fortune 500 companies and startups around the world. For the last 18 years, he’s focused on the growing need to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments.

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