In this current environment of Big Tech layoffs, it is timely to remind ourselves that we are not indestructible and that we need to take time off in order to do our best work and be at our most happiest and energized.

The common mistake is that we “need to push through” and that “taking time off just means I have to do all that work in less time”. That is wrong. Very wrong.

Down time is Important

Here is the reality … you will get all that work done, faster and more efficiently in that “less time” when you’re at 100% than struggling along at 60-70% for the entire duration. It’s math, and it’s true :)

So here’s a few tips n tricks that I personally apply, and have also learned the hard way (refer: burnout in Feb 2021 after Solorigate) …

  • Block your calendar far in advance, even if you don’t formally capture in whatever time management system you have, or even know if the dates are exactly right. It defends that space.
  • Unless you are deliberately accumulating leave for a really big long thing, aim to use time off regularly to assist with keeping on top of things. Block out a week a quarter and see where it takes you.
  • Don’t undervalue the odd single day off as a way to get your mind away from work. Especially when in a timeline driven project, taking that day to relax those shoulders, stretch the legs, breathe, nap, just not think about tasks at work, will be very impactful.
  • Defend your calendar. Every day, every hour. I don’t care who it is, if I’m blocked for down time, it’s a decline. It’s my choice whether I choose to let that thing invade my space.
  • At least once a year you need an extended break, 2 weeks + the weekends either side minimum with complete disconnection. You will feel very different after as you realize work is just work and life is … life.
  • And on disconnection, turn off those notifications and unread app counts etc, if you’re off, be off. Even just a quick check will bring your brain back into work. Don’t do it, or acknowledge that this is not time off, it’s just a lazy work day.

RIF’s, Layoffs, Firings, call it what you will

Sometimes we don’t get to choose when we take time off. Remember this is not personal. Businesses do not have feelings, people do.

If you are impacted in this way, as hard and difficult it can be, take a few days. Allow yourself to accept and process. And then take a breathe and embrace the opportunity.

Sign up for unemployment, immediately. It often has a slight delay in kicking in, there is no shame in it, and the key thing this does is removes that incredible angst of financial survival. That can be a paralyzing fear and if you are in a situation where that matters, it will taint your decision making. So take it off the table.

Now sit down and think about what the opportunity is in your situation. You suddenly have some time to think about what matters to you, what would you like to do in a perfect world, what drives you and makes you happy?

Oh, and while you do that, catch up on those chores and little tasks that have been on your mind for a while, both to get them done, and to allow your brain to unconsciously process.

A few tactical suggestions:

  • Write down those attributes that matter to you, and as you look at job postings and talk to people, keep a sheet or table of how each one aligns.
  • Get some help with resume writing. Sadly, most companies use some sort of tool and algorithm to filter on submission, so while you might be The Candidate, if you don’t have the right words in that resume, you don’t even get to a recruiter screen.
  • Have multiple resumes. If you’re looking at different roles, levels or even industries, it’s ok to have a set to choose from with slight variations. Win the race by starting strong and playing the rules.
  • Don’t feel the rush. It’s hard. But no matter how much you try, that urgency will show through. Be relaxed, interested, inquisitive. But not urgent. If you have unemployment, the critical funds exist to stay alive.
  • Catch up with people. Go have a coffee if local, do a video call if not. The act of interacting with other “work” people will help you stay fresh on the interactions and you won’t feel that “out of practice” moment on a call that matters.
  • Enjoy this time. Get your exercise in, take those naps. Soon enough you’ll be joining a new company, ramping, learning and feeling that mental tiredness of change!
  • Don’t be afraid to take an hourly rate role. It’s seriously worth it as both a way to top up some funds, and to have some “workplace interactions”. No one will judge you for it (and if they do, red flag) and frankly it shows a spirit and resiliency that makes you a desirable candidate.

And finally, it’s ok to leverage your network, it’s ok to ask for help, and it’s ok to spend some time doing activities that make you happy while you look for a job. Kia Kaha.

Let’s be awesome. And nice.