Todd Libby

Staycation 2021

A person sitting on a bed or couch and holding a coffee mug in one hand and reading a book an dturning a page with the other hand.

I recently took over a month off from work. That meant not doing any work. At all. I did keep some commitments I had, but for the most part, very little code was touched. I recommend you take a month off every year, and here is why.

When you have been plugging away at code for so long through the year and you have been fed a steady diet of work, work, and work, you develop blinders (or at least I do) and you push through everything and anything to get as much work done as possible.

The means losing sleep and not taking care of yourself. It could mean just doing things that are not condusive to the health and wellbeing of a developer or designer. Especially, the mental health part. Stress, pushing to get things wrapped up towards a deadline. Those things can break someone in tech.

I have experienced this many times and in multiple cases during the course of a year back when I could push 18-20 hours days wile raising two kids part-time and working a third shift job while also having a few money-making opportunities inbeween.

Skip to 2020. Good grief! I usually take the entire month of August off, it has always been a yearly thing so I can get in the car and drive up the coast of Maine, eating lobster rolls and enjoying the summer and ocean. Now, since I don't want to chance anything, I stayed home and decided January, my birth month, would be a great present to myself.

So What? Why should I care?

I've been burnt out multiple times. You don't want to go down the same path if you haven't already. If you have already, then you know full well what I am talking about. A designer or developer is only good to themselves and their company if they are at their best. That means a few aspects.

Mental Health: This is tantamount. In order for you to be your best and be as sharp and laser-focused on the task at hand, your mental health is key. The key of keys. "The One Ring" so to speak. You rmental health is so important that any damage has a ripple effect as I like to call it. If you're not at your best, then that affects other people that you deal with on a daily basis.

This could be co-workers, family, friends, anyone. Your actions affect others.

Physical Health: I don't know how many times I "burnt the candle at both ends." Meaning 16, 18, 20 hour days. Whether that was all coding or whether that was other jobs, family life, coding, etc. Lack of sufficient sleep and rest hurts you. It hurts your brain. It hurts your work.

I scrapped sleep for the almighty dollar and it cost me time with my kids when they were young, two TIA's (mini-strokes), premature grey hair, stress, worry, anxiety. Nothing I'd wish on anyone. It made me some money, but it cost me in the long run.

I can't afford to! So I won't

Yes you can. You certainly can. I can and did. Here is how.

You save up a chunk of your earnings and set that into an account or a place where you forget about it for a time. You save up two months worth of money and you use that (three in times where there isn't a pandemic and we are free to travel and do our thing without fear) to pay for your vacation.

Granted, I kept a few of my commitments that I had previously scheduled, I also attended W3C meetings and that was pretty much it. I barely touched any code. I wrote, I read, I relaxed. Towards the end, I could feel myself itching to do some coding, but instead, I used that time to binge some Hulu or Netflix. Something other than code.

You have that extra money, and in other circumstance, use it. Treat yourself. In these times where we have to be careful, do things like read, write, blog, watch movies or TV, spend time with your family! I cannot stress that last one enough. Kids grow up fast. Make sure you're there when they do and not nose in the screen and head down and coding. Commit a block of your day to your family.

My company won't let me have PTO

Well, I wouldn't work for a company that doesn't promote good health standards for their employees, first off. Secondly, take unpaid leave. Remember that money you saved up from part of that nice salary you make? Use it. Take it off. Especially these days where we might be stuck inside all the time.

No, tech does not usually commit to keeping their employees mental and physical health a priority. Sure, you have a gym at the office, but if we're remote, we're not there. I'm not going into a gym under these extreme times we are living in. Are you? I hope not.

So be good to yourself, be good to your families. Be good to the people around you because that "ripple effect" I spoke of earlier? It reaches far and wide. Have you ever tossed a stone into a lake or a pond? The ripples keep going and going, on and on for a long time and spread far and wide.

That stone is you, the ripples are the effect you can have on others.

Coding isn't the most important thing in the world. You are.